Rising India and China: An Examination of Related Debates, Assessments, and Predictions

Mumin Chen
National Chung Hsing University, Taiwan

The rise of China and India is perhaps one of the most visible and debated phenomena in world politics today. The modern international system has rarely witnessed the re-emergence of two states neighboring each other simultaneously, not to even mention the fact that both China and India are considered as “awakening” giants in Asia. The recent development—both China and India are rising— creates a situation that both academic scholars and policy makers have never seen before. They have yet to develop sufficient theories or models to predict how both rising powers will interact with each other, and how their Asian neighbors will accommodate the concurrent rise of both giants.

On the other hand, as there were certainly new books on how China and India’s rise is reshaping global political and economic orders in Asia, yet few scholarly works addressed the impact of their rise on bilateral relations.[1] Considerable research literature is now available on China-India relations, but most of it still follows a conventional perspective, seeing the relationship to be conflictive by nature. The “geopolitical conflict in the arc of land and waters lying between and alongside China and India, ” a phrase used in John W. Garver’s landmark study of 2001, are constantly mentioned by many analysts as fundamental determinant in depicting the relationship.[2] To quote Mohan Malik:

(China and India) remain two fierce competitors, determined to outdo each other, rather than two collaborators with common agendas. Despite bourgeoning economic links, China and India harbor strong hostility and suspicions about one another.[3]

My argument is that discussions of future political order and security environment of Asia cannot ignore the impact of continuous estrangement between China and India and role of Taiwan. Observers of China-India relations also have to take the dynamic changes of Asian security environment into consideration. Therefore, the following discussions will address three issues:

The first is to analyze and predict India-China relations. How do Chinese and Indian scholars evaluate India-China relations? What is the impact of China and India’s parallel rise on bilateral relations? Focus will be placed on whether the estrangement will escalate into a military conflict in the future.

The second issue is about the role of Taiwan in India-China strategic competitions. Facing an increasingly powerful China, Taiwan has a strong incentive to seek a strategic ally that also harbors a deep suspicion of China’s growing power projection, and India appears to be an ideal choice. Here I would to discuss if China’s negative image in India as a rising military power globally generate a sympatric feeling for Taiwan.

The last issue is scholarly views on future political order in East Asia and Indian Ocean. What theory or model has been utilized to explain China and India’s simultaneous rise? How do IR theorists respond to the debate on China and India’s challenges to current world order? Here I would like to introduce and discuss certain new books on how China and India’s rise is reshaping global political and economic orders.

Apparently, there has been no consensus—at least in scholarly communities—about whether India and China’s rise will eventually alter the power structure of international system. Even though many observers are convinced of China and India’s rise as one of the most visible and even inevitable developments in the 21st century, how do both countries project their influence on global scale remain an issue of debate. 

[1] Recent studies on China and India’s rise and response from other countries include Shalendra D. Sharma, China and India in the Age of Globalization (Cambridge, Cambridge University press, 2009); Ashley J. Tellis, Travis Tanner, and Jessica Keough eds., Strategic Asia 2011-12: Asia Responds to Its Rising Powers, China and India (Seattle and Washington DC, National Bureau of Asian Research, 2011); Ashley J. Tellis and Sean Mirski eds., Crux of Asia: China, India, and the Emerging Global Order (Washington DC, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2013).

[2] John W. Garver, Protracted Contest: Sino-Indian Rivalry in the Twentieth Century (2001), p.5.

[3] Malik Mohan, China and India: Great Power Rivals (Boulder, and London: First Forum Press, 2011), p.2.