China killed 20 Indian soldiers. India also probably killed some Chinese soldiers, but we will probably never know that. Even as anger rises in India, there is also the realisation that in a straight contest between the two, China’s military superiority will overwhelm India. China is more powerful than India. Hence, China can bully India and get away with it. It is not a good outcome. It should make us rightfully angry. The question is: who should we be angry against? The Chinese leaders who made China powerful or the Indian leaders who kept India weak?
Until the late 1970s, India and China had very similar per capita income and problems. Both had large populations and both had been impoverished by singularly bad leadership over the previous 30 years. And then, as we know, something extraordinary happened. China transformed itself; India did not. Today, the average Chinese has a per capita income that is five times that of the average Indian. This chart below from Hindustan Times (Jan 18, 2020) shows the diverging fortunes of the two nations over the past 40 years.
Since India and China are comparable in population, the per capita GDP difference is also the difference in total GDP: China’s income is five times India’s GDP. China’s consistent higher income over the past four decades also means that China is certainly over 10 times wealthier than India.
Therefore over the decades, the might of the Chinese economy has enabled it to invest in a very powerful military. India’s defence investments have languished on the back of a weaker economy. And with power has come China’s aggression – knowing full well that none of its neighbours can fight back. That is why China can bully and kill, and all India can do is to meekly watch. We can fret and fume, but we know we cannot hit back. China is simply too strong for India.
How did it happen? How did China become so dominant? Why did India not do? What did China do right, and what did India do wrong? This is the introspection we need to be doing. We lost our past and fumbled our present. What will it take for India to win in the future?
Tomorrow: Why China Can Kill and India Cannot (Part 2)