China-India Brief #111

Published Twice a Month
February 28 2018 - March 13, 2018

Centre on Asia and Globalisation
Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy

Guest Column

Interconnection in China and India’s Quests to Become Great Powers

By Chris Ogden   

Interconnection in China and India’s Quests to Become Great Powers

Frequently, analysts have based their assessments of a country being a great power upon a single major criterion – for example, that it will have the world’s largest GDP levels, the greatest amount of military power projection or even perhaps the size of its population and landmass.  Such accounts negate the ways in which different power sources are innately interconnected and how they inform each other through processes of reinforcement, magnification and synergy.  Critically, not only are material forms of power central to such calculations but values and principles (broadly “ideational” elements) are also vital, The combination tells us what is specific to the policy preferences of particular countries.  For both China and India, these dynamics are evident - and are key drivers - in their mutual rise and underpin their shared ambitions.

Beijing’s yearning to be a great power is based upon re-establishing its former standing in the international system, therefore intimately joining its past to its current day behaviour.  Major attitudes which have become part of China’s strategic culture include anti-imperialism, non-intervention in the affairs of other states, and multipolarity.  Such attitudes are also core legitimation points for the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) domestically, which then find expression outwards into its external policies.  These attitudes in turn influence its use of military force, which has oscillated between an offensive (under Mao) and as a defensive (largely post-Mao) tool with which to increase its comprehensive national strength.  In the last few decades, the speed of China’s military modernization has been driven by its mounting economic power, which has then accordingly expanded its escalating trade and energy security needs.  Moreover, these elements influence Beijing’s peripheral relations, with China looking at nearby zones through a realist military defence/assertion lens or through a liberal economic interdependence lens.  Historically derived perceptions relating to the functioning of the international system, preferred territorial arrangements, and regional rivalry with Japan further inform Beijing’s perceptions of the periphery and international relations more broadly.  In addition, domestic, strategic, military, economic, and periphery concerns all merge into China’s interaction with – and outlook towards – multilateral and regional institutions. These factors have informed Beijing’s fluctuating relations with the United States.

New Delhi’s great power ambitions also function as a vessel in which a combination of diverse power sources has been fused.  Internal considerations of prestige, modernization, and development have fused with specific values relating to self-reliance, preferred territorial visualizations, and international status. These fundamentals in turn inform India’s outlook towards the use of military force, which, through its interaction with other states, changed from being understood as unnecessary (pre-1962) to indispensable and backed by nuclear weapons.  In the same way as China, India’s mounting economic capabilities have increased its military strength, whilst self-reliance (pre-1991) has given way to great power ambitions (post-1991), leading to the embrace of liberalized trade. Economic power and military strength have spurred New Delhi’s military modernization and growing weapons imports, and these have inspired it to defend its trade and energy security interests more vigorously. Regionally, India’s self-perception as the foremost state in South Asia has informed its different material dealings with its smaller neighbours, while competition with Pakistan has been motivated by both ideational differences and military competition.  During the Cold War, ideational preferences informed New Delhi’s dealings towards multilateral institutions, most markedly pushing it towards the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), which interwove India’s domestic identity with its larger international aspirations. In the post-Cold War period, however, ideational elements were succeeded by a deeper emphasis on economics. With the US, India’s ideational and material variables have continued to affect the relationship.

It is of paramount importance to consider the wide range of power sources that combine to give a country great power status. Material elements combine with values, producing a gestating, evolving, and non-static appreciation of what makes great powers great.  It is the fusion of these various elements of material and ideational elements that produce different pathways to great power status. Looking at these power combinations adds nuance, complexity, and sophistication to our analyses and highlights how interconnection between the different power elements is a critical variable in understanding the accumulation of international power. This kind of approach will also allow us to properly appreciate the impact that China and India will have upon the definition and performance of great power, and their wider impact upon how power is conceived, measured, and delivered.


Dr Chris Ogden is Senior Lecturer / Associate Professor in Asian Security at the School of International Relations, University of St Andrews.  His latest books include China & India: Asia’s Emergent Great Powers (Polity, 2017) and Indian National Security (Oxford UP, 2017).


The views expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy or the National University of Singapore.


News Reports

Bilateral relations

China steps up “feel good” diplomacy with India
The Hindu, March 12
China on Monday stepped up the on-going messaging between Beijing and New Delhi, highlighting a steady improvement in their post-Doklam ties.In response to a question, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang, said during his routine briefing that China had noted “positive remarks by the Indian side.”

China’s foreign minister suggests ‘Chinese dragon’ and ‘Indian elephant’ should dance, not fight
The Washington Post, March 9
A pair of statements from the Chinese and Indian foreign ministries this week appeared to show an opening in relations between Asia’s most powerful rivals, long competitors on trade and territory. “The Chinese ‘dragon’ and the Indian ‘elephant’ must not fight each other, but dance with each other,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in Beijing on Thursday. If the two countries joined hands, he said, “one plus one will equal not only two, but also eleven,” referring to how powerful they would be together.

India going the extra mile to 'accommodate' Chinese sensitivities
The Times of India, March 7
India is going the extra mile to “accommodate” Chinese sensitivities a year after standing up to Chinese aggression on multiple fronts. The Dalai Lama cancelled a programme in Delhi scheduled for March 31 where he was supposed to present the Indian government with a “thank you” memento marking the 60th anniversary since he arrived here fleeing Chinese repression. Tibetan officials said while there was no “formal” advisory from the Indian government, there were “verbal” indications to the Tibetan leader to reduce the profile of the celebrations.

China building helipads, trenches at Doklam: Government
The Times of India, March 6
The People's Liberation Army (PLA) has undertaken "construction of some infrastructure, including sentry posts, trenches and helipads" near the face-off site between Indian and Chinese troops at Doklam in the Sikkim-Bhutan-Tibet tri-junction area, said defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Monday (March 5).  

India, China preparing for series of high-level talks
The Times of India, March 3
India and China are preparing for a series of high-level interactions culminating with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to China for the SCO summit in June. This includes a meeting in Hangzhou on March 26-30 on the sharing of hydrological data, and a strategic and economic dialogue on April 13-15. This spate of interactions will culminate with the Indian PM's visit to Qingdao for the SCO summit on June 9, 2018.

News Reports

China and India in the Regions

With China in mind, India and France deepen military cooperation
Nikkei Asian Review, March 10
Amid China's growing assertiveness in the region, India and France on Saturday pledged to increase defense cooperation in the Indian Ocean and signed a pact that will provide mutual access to each other's naval bases. The base accord was one of 14 bilateral agreements signed after talks between visiting French President Emmanuel Macron and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Asian giants China and India flex muscles over tiny Maldives
Reuters, March 7
A Chinese naval combat force that entered the Indian Ocean for the first time in four years may have helped deter an Indian intervention in the Maldives after its pro-China president imposed a state of emergency. India had moved aircraft and ships to its southern bases and put special forces on standby. But in the end, Prime Minister Narendra Modi held off, unwilling to entangle the military in a foreign country of 400,000 people.

Vessels from 16 navies arrive for Indian Navy exercise off the Andaman and Nicobar islands
The Straits Times, March 6
Naval vessels from 16 countries, including Singapore, arrived in the waters off the Andaman and Nicobar Islands on Tuesday (Feb 6th) for a major biennial exercise hosted by the Indian navy. Indian analysts noted that Exercise Milan, which means coming together in Hindi, is taking place amid growing concern here about an increasing Chinese naval presence in the Indian Ocean.

India, Vietnam deepen ties on N-energy, trade, agriculture
The Times of India, March 4
India and Vietnam agreed to cooperate on nuclear energy, trade and agriculture as Prime Minister Narendra Modi held talks with the President of Vietnam, Tran Dai Quang here on Saturday (March 3). Vietnam is one of India’s closest strategic partners in the Asean region.

News Reports

Trade and Economy

Donald Trump threatens to impose "reciprocal tax" on India, China
The Economic Times, March 10
US President Donald Trump threatened to impose a “reciprocal tax” on countries like China and India if they do not match America’s tariffs, reiterating a warning he had made before while referencing India’s import duties on Harley-Davidson motorcycles. On Friday (March 9), the government said the decision by the US to raise import duty on steel and aluminium is discriminatory and will have some impact on India.

India to become $5 trillion economy in 7 years: Suresh Prabhu
Livemint, March 9
Union commerce and industry minister Suresh Prabhu on Friday (March 9) exuded confidence that India will become a $5 trillion economy in the next seven years, adding that India will be a bigger economy than China at some point of time. India’s GDP, at present, is estimated $2.5 trillion and that of China is $11.85 trillion. In October-December quarter, India posted a GDP growth of 7.2% to reclaim the tag of world’s fastest growing major economy from China.

India-China bilateral trade hits historic high of $84.44 billion in 2017
The Times of India, March 7
The India-China bilateral trade reached $84.44 billion last year, an historic high notwithstanding bilateral tensions over a host of issues including the Doklam standoff. Indian exports to China last year experienced a 40% increase totalling $16.34 billion. Total bilateral trade in 2017 rose by 18.63% year-on-year to reach $84.44 billion. This is the first time the volume of bilateral trade touched $80 billion, well above the $71.18 billion registered last year.

India outpaces China again with 7.2% growth in third quarter
Nikkei Asian Review, February 28
India's gross domestic product grew 7.2% year-on-year in the October-December quarter, the fastest pace in the current financial year ending in March. With the stronger-than-expected Q3 numbers, India has regained its position as the world's fastest-growing major economy, outpacing China, which grew by 6.8% in the October-December quarter.

China-Backed AIIB Eyes $1 Billion Infrastructure Push in India
Bloomberg, February 28
The AIIB, a multilateral investment bank proposed by China that started operations in 2016, has already approved funding for roughly $1 billion worth of projects in India and considering around $1 billion more. That includes a $200 million investment in New Delhi’s National Infrastructure Investment Fund, said Jin Liqun, who steers the bank’s $100 billion in registered capital.

News Reports

Energy and Environment

'US, China keen to join International Solar Alliance
The Economic Times, March 11
The US and China are also keen to join International Solar Alliance (ISA) which is aimed at promoting solar energy across the countries falling in the tropic of cancer and capricorn, a senior official said. "The other countries like US and China are among also prospective 121 countries under the ISA. But, they are yet to sign the agreement. They have shown interest," External Affairs Joint Secretary (Europe West) K Nagaraj Naidu said, while replying to a question whether other countries.

Will hitting China with tariffs kill India's solar dreams?
CNN, March 10
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will host the first gathering of the International Solar Alliance in New Delhi on Sunday (March 11), with French President Emmanuel Macron in attendance. But the international summit comes as India's plan to slap a 70% tariff on imported solar panels divides the country's industry. Panel installers say the tariffs could kill any hope of hitting the 2022 target, while panel makers say they're vital to prevent China from gaining too much influence.

India, China to fuel 50% of rise in global oil demand in 5 years, says IEA
Business Standard, March 8
India and China are set to contribute nearly 50 per cent to the increase in the global demand for oil over the next five years, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said in its report on oil sector for 2018. According to IEA, demand is expected to grow at an annual rate of 1.2 million barrels per day (mbd) until 2023, as the oil demand would reach 104.7 mbd, up by 6.9 mb day from 2018. “As China’s economy becomes more consumer-oriented, the rate of growth in oil demand slows down to 2023, compared with the 2010-17 period. By comparison, the pace of oil demand growth will pick up slightly in India,” it says.

River data to flow again as India, China defuse conflicts
The Economic Times, March 8
India and China are set to revive a mechanism to share data on trans-boundary rivers, a move that is seen as yet another attempt at Confidence Building Measures (CBM) to boost ties between the two countries this year. The two nations will soon hold their next meeting of the expert level mechanism in Beijing, which was set up in 2006 for cooperation on sharing of flood-season hydrological data, emergency management and other issues regarding trans-border rivers such as Brahmaputra and Sutlej.

Renewable energy grows globally, especially in China: BP
Xinhua, March 3
A senior economist at BP said on Friday (March 2) that rapid growth of renewables is leading to a fuel mix that could be the most diversified ever, with the largest increase in China. Spencer Dale, group chief economist at BP, delivered report of "BP Energy Outlook 2018" at Baker Institute's Center for Energy Studies at Rice University in Houston, Texas, the United States. According to the report, renewables development will result to a fuel mix that could be the most diversified ever through 2040.


What an unlimited Xi presidency in China means for India
South China Morning Post, March 11
By Jabin T. Jacob - Senior Researcher, Institute of Chinese Studies

What does the removal of term limits for the Xi Jinping presidency in China mean for the developing world and, in particular, for South Asia? One possibility is there could be a demonstration effect. China’s decades-long rapid economic growth has been a source of envy and inspiration for many countries in the developing world. Some like Vietnam, for instance, have used China as a model in launching its own opening up and reforms process. Other countries, including many in South Asia, have seen Beijing as an alternative to the West for financial resources and capital.

India’s Stance on Dalai Lama Reveals Dynamics With China
The Quint, March 7
By Manoj Joshi - Distinguished Fellow, Observer Research Foundation

At first sight, there is nothing wrong with Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale’s request to the Cabinet Secretary requesting him to send out a directive asking senior government officials to stay away from events aimed at marking the start of the Dalai Lama’s 60th year of exile, in particular a large public event in New Delhi on 1 April.

China’s ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ is no more imperial than Pax Americana – and the data shows it is more magnanimous
South China Morning Post, March 4
By Friedrich Wu - Adjunct Associate Professor, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies

Since Chinese President Xi Jinping unveiled his country’s ambitious “Belt and Road Initiative” in 2013, some detractors in Asia and the West are looking at it as the most audacious challenge yet to America’s global primacy. Since the Chinese government, banks and state-owned enterprises will be the main financing sources for the construction of these transcontinental infrastructure projects, critics have warned that China could become a “new imperial power” pursuing a “debt-trap diplomacy”.

What an unlimited Xi Presidency means for China’s neighbours
South China Morning Post, March 3
By Oh Ei Sun - Senior Adviser, Asian Strategy & Leadership Institute

A highlight of China’s biggest political meeting of the year – this month’s “Two Sessions” – will almost certainly be the slew of constitutional amendments proposed by the Communist Party to the country’s legislature, the National People’s Congress. Among these, the one that by far has gained the most overseas attention is the plan to scrap the two-term limit on the presidency.

India’s regional power status under a cloud
Livemint, February 28
By Harsh V. Pant - Distinguished Fellow, Observer Research Foundation and Professor of International Relations, King’s College London

There is an interesting phenomenon in Indian strategic thinking: every time there is a crisis in which New Delhi is expected to play a role, a growing chorus arises, advising Indian policymakers to tread with caution. It can be an India-made crisis or one in which India may have had no real role. It can be a crisis in India’s neighbourhood or further away from its periphery, but intellectual response often remains one of “wait and watch”, underscoring why New Delhi should not do anything substantive.

Books and Journals

China and the Future International Order(s)
Ethics & International Affairs, Volume 32, Issue 1, Spring/2018, pp. 31-43

By Shiping Tang - Professor at the School of International Relations and Public Affairs (SIRPA), Fudan University

This essay surveys the key themes within China's discourse on international order, especially how China views its position and role in shaping the existing and future order. It explores the possible implications of China's thinking and actions toward the existing international order. The paper concludes that overall, China sees no need for and hence does not seek fundamental transformation, but rather piecemeal modification of the existing order. In fact, China has been quite content with the existing order that supports globalization, despite occasional rhetoric indicating otherwise. In the near future, China will likely invest heavily in two key issue areas: (1) regionalism in East Asia and Central Asia; and (2) interregional cooperation and coordination. Perhaps unsurprisingly, China's ambitious “One Belt and One Road” initiative seeks to integrate these two issue areas.

India and the International Order: Accommodation and Adjustment
Ethics & International Affairs, Volume 32, Issue 1, Spring/2018, pp. 61-74

By Deepa M Ollapally - Research Professor of International Affairs; Associate Director, Sigur Center for Asian Studies, Elliott School of International Affairs, The George Washington University

India is gradually changing its course from decades of inward-looking economics and strong anti-Western foreign policies. It has become more pragmatic, seeing important economic benefits from globalization, and some political benefits of working with the United States to achieve New Delhi's great-power aspirations. Despite these changes, I argue that India's deep-seated anti-colonial nationalism and commitment to strategic autonomy continues to form the core of Indian identity. This makes India's commitment to Western-dominated multilateral institutions and Western norms, such as humanitarian intervention, partial and instrumental. Thus, while Indian foreign-policy discourse shows little sign of seeking to fully challenge the U.S.-led international order beyond largely reformist measures of building parallel institutions such as the New Development Bank, India will continue to strongly resist Western actions that weaken sovereignty norms.


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