Re: China Through a Bangladeshi's Eyes
Asia Times, 25.10.2004
I read the article titled China through a Bangladeshi's eye [Oct 23] on Asia Times, at first with interest that consequently turned to disappointment and disgust following your assertion that "India has democracy; China has accountability and so on. One thing struck me. India is nationalistic; China is patriotic. Indian nationalism is often manifested in its anti-foreign postures. The root of nationalism lies in anti-foreignness." To set the record straight, I am an Indian student (from Kolkata, so we share much in common) in the UK. My objections and alternative suggestions are as follows-
1. Your claim that China has accountability is simply factually incorrect. Yes, China has a very brutal penal code, but that doesn't result in accountability for the higher strata of the communist bureaucracy, most of which is dipped [in] the sea of corruption. Even on the lower rungs, bribing of officials is rife for business contracts and so on. The harsh punishments are only used against petty thieves to remind the Chinese people of the muscle the CCP [Chinese Communist Party] still wields. Was Deng Xiaoping held accountable for Tiananmen Square? Has the same happened for Mao [Zedong] for the Great Leap Forward? When will the officials responsible for hiding details about SARS [severe acute respiratory syndrome] be brought to justice? Has the whole of the CCP been taken to court over the brutal suppression of minorities in Tibet and Xinjiang? Yes, corruption is rife in India too, but if any country out of these two has accountability, then it is the Union of India, not the People's Republic of China. When our minorities are massacred in Gujarat, there is a three-level investigation process; numerous such high-profile examples of exposing fraud exist. So when you say that India is a democracy, how can you forget that accountability goes hand in hand with this term?
2. What do you mean, "and so on"? Do you intend to indulge in [more] of these generalizations? Let's see for ourselves. India has rule of law, periodic elections at local, regional and national levels, freedom of speech, freedom to practice any religion, freedom of association, freedom of movement, a Human Rights Act and a National Human Rights Commission, Minority Rights Commission and the SC/ST [Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribes] Act to protect their rights, freedom of information and equality of opportunity. Let's look at China's scorecard in comparable fields – law is what the CCP conceives it to be, so rule of law is actually "rule of the CCP", farce in the name of elections, curtailments on freedom of speech, abandoning of religion (note the atrocities committed against Tibetans, Christians and Muslims), restriction on formation of associations and their activities (note the curtailments on Falungong), an appalling human-rights record, suppression of minorities like the Uighurs and Tibetans, censoring of press and other forms of information, government monopoly on most news items and inequality of opportunity (note the preference given to the Hans over the other ethnic races in China). The picture certainly does look a lot different from your utopian China.
3. Your weak assertion that Indian nationalism is based on anti-foreign sentiments is simply laughable. A country that believes in antar-rashtriya sampriti (international peace and harmony) being labeled with such an accusation! On the other hand stands a country which proclaims itself as the Middle Kingdom of the Earth, inhabited by the greatest race on the planet, apparently. Is this why peaceful and patriotic China has major border issues with almost all of its neighbors? Is this why on one hand India has never invaded another country in its long history of 5,000 years and assimilated all those who invaded us, whereas Chinese have invaded, threatened and subjugated others, namely the Tibetans, Uighurs, Indians and Taiwanese – to name a few? Does India's so-called innate anti-foreignness lead it to maintain a cosmopolitan overseas community when compared to a closely huddled and antisocial overseas Chinese counterpart? Is it China's "friendly" attitude towards its neighbors that leads it to point nuclear missiles at Japan, Taiwan and the US?
4. Perhaps you are making a generalization about us Indians from the narrowness of your personal experience, a dangerous business no doubt. Yes, Indians generally do not look kindly on Bangladeshis, not because of some inherent hatred for outsiders but because your government has failed miserably to uplift your people from poverty and so they flee to India to become a burden on our social-welfare system, contributing nothing but crime and misery to our urban and rural areas alike. Incidentally, terrorist bases in your country operating in our northeast doesn't exactly say "friendly neighbor". Bangladesh has forgotten to be grateful to India, to which it owes its existence.
5. The levels of investment have nothing to do with antagonism against foreigners. Borrowing [former US] president [Bill] Clinton's words, "It's the economy, stupid!" India's economic policy over the last 20 years has been distinctly different from China's. Indeed, we have been a lot slower in liberalizing our economy, which has proved detrimental in some sectors, but it is proving profitable in others, notably the better prospects of Indian companies in the long term compared with MNC [multinational corporation] dominated China. You mention the Forbidden City, yet you forget to mention its sponsors – Coca-Cola and American Express. Thank God, the Taj Mahal is still ours to keep.
6. China does not retain any love for its workers – it's simply a farce. There are daily worker protests in China when the subsidy-dependent white elephants known as SOEs [state-owned enterprises] collapse and thousands become unemployed. In India, the trade unions can take matters to court. In China, rule of law being absent, it's the police [who] brutally disperse the crowd.
7. Finally, please do not remain in the illusion that China is Bangladesh's potential ally. If you do, then you will be in the same position as Pakistan. China merely wants Bangladesh to be part of the wall it wants to build to encircle India, its only potential rival to worldwide clout. I hope Bangladesh realizes this folly and does not let itself be manipulated either by Pakistan or Bangladesh. Its best interest lies in building strong economic ties with India, first of all by signing SAFTA [South Asian Free Trade Agreement], and better relations will follow.
I am sorry to have offended you in any way, which is not my intent. I have merely raised some issues which I believe seriously jeopardize your analysis. It was something that could not be left undone, for a patriotic Indian does exist (who does not hate foreigners).