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Oct 02, 2009 at 10:45am IST

Debate: China becoming next world superpower

Sixty years ago on October 1, 1949, Mao Zedong proclaimed the People's Republic of China. Celebrations were held on grand scale in China Thursday to mark the 60th anniversary of the day that Communist China came into existence.

In the 60 years of its existence, China has seen some of the most phenomenal changes in the world. It is one of the fastest growing economies, has the largest standing army but is plagued by poverty, charges of human rights violations and environmental degradations.

ALSO SEE China snubs India, plays the Kashmir card

Face The Nation debated - Communist China turns 60: Is China the real global superpower of the 21st century?

On the panel to discuss the issue were Executive Director of Bajaj Electricals Ltd, R Ramakrishnan who has business dealings with China; Delhi Science Forum Vice President, Prabir Purkayastha; East Asian Studies Chairman at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, Professor Srikanth Kondapalli and the Editor-in-Chief of the Indian Express group, Shekhar Gupta.

Assertion of hard power

China chose to celebrate its anniversary by flexing its muscles, by showcasing a massive military parade and almost flashing its empowered status in no soft a manner.

Is there a message underlying the show of power?

"Well, it is true that it was a military parade with 52 items of weapon systems and with 2,00,000 troops marching down Tiananmen square in China," said Professor Kondapalli. "But there is also the soft power involved in terms of China showcasing and its President Hu Jintao suggesting that it will contribute to the global economy."

Professor Kondapalli also saw it as a Chinese way of raising nationalistic feelings amongst the Chinese citizens.

But with a flourishing economy, it is hardly a communist China that one sees today. It is making strides in the capitalist world with private enterprises. So what is China really celebrating?

Prabir Purkayastha felt that the Chinese see more equality than they did before the emergence of Red China. All said and done, poverty alleviation was also being done and the balance sheet of 60 years last would show China has done a pretty good job, thought Purkayastha.

But the equality and socialist image of China takes a real beating when the voices of average Chinese nationals are heard across the world. It tossed out the myth that socialism and communism breed a free society as a survey by the BBC allegedly showed that top on the minds of the Chinese citizens is a thirst for democracy.

"People would like a greater economic share in the growth of the country and also exercise their own rights on the direction they want to take. So I would say yes, obviously. A part of the growth is also that there would be a democratic growth in the future," Purkayastha added.

So will China become less and less communist as it progresses? Will its economic strides and capitalist ventures encourage neighbourly and free trade pacts with India?

Free trade with China is not a possibility for India as China allegedly rigs its currency. India would then fall into a Yuan trap.

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"India will have to be a bit cautious in terms of a free trade agreement with China," R Ramakrishnan agreed. He underlined the fact that China is a neighbour, but in terms of overall costs and subsidies, aggression and dumping, it is an economy to watch out for.

"But I think, today when we look at the progress that China has made, particularly in the last thirty years, I can't help but admire what has been achieved," said Ramakrishnan.

He said that while the nation wears the communist cloak over it, parts of China are far more capitalist; maybe even more so than the western nations.

Shekhar Gupta refused to call it a 60 years of China per se.

"I think you have to look at it as 40 years of Mao's communist China and 20 years of Deng's communist China," Gupta said.

He pointed out that social scientists will find a term for China's way of governance soon but till then, "I think China has developed a whole new national ideology that is not communism, socialism or even capitalism."

Marriage of capitalism and nationalism

"It is an extreme form of capitalism built around an extreme form of nationalism," he added.

Compare this to the fact that globally capitalism has weakened nationalistic feelings while in China's case it is strengthened.

Purkayastha's communist affiliations refused to let China's communist character be called off.

He had a different opinion. "I think what we have is a communist party taking over a relatively backward country, developing its economy and at the current juncture they certainly are taking recourse to capitalist methods. Whether they will survive and will still be able to maintain their socialist character or becomes capitalist fully, is yet to be seen," Purkayastha said.

Stop fighting the 1962 war

China has time and again flexed muscles against India and created problems in the rising India story.

About China's stand on Arunachal and Kashmir, Gupta said India must acquire a thick-skinned status. India must avoid exhibiting holy outrage at the mention Sikkim, Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh.

As far as China's allying with Pakistan is just a way to balancing power. So India does not need to live in shadows of fear of big, bad China.

As the age of hyper-power USA ends, in the multi-polar world India and China will have to come to terms with each other, felt Purkayastha.

On its own terms

Tiananmen and support for Sudan, despite a civil strife, China just charts its own course. Should India then emulate China?

"No, what we can learn from China is focus," said Shekhar Gupta.

"We baffle on everything. Look at the baffling going on over the commonwealth games," said Gupta.

Ramakrishnan highlighted China's execution abilities, especially in infrastructure projects amongst other things. "Our economic priorities should not suffer due to our political system. Somewhere, India needs to learn is to stand far more independently and far taller," he said reiterating that India is strong and capable.

Final results of the SMS poll: Communist China turns 60: Is China the real global superpower of the 21st century?

Yes: 56 per cent

No: 44 per cent

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