HOME: Why Chindia?

Updated 2 July, 2014

Chindia is a portmanteau word made up of ‘China’ and ‘India’ and refers to them and their economies.  The term was popularised in 2005 in Making Sense of Chindia‘ by Shri Jairam Ramesh, a senior Indian politician in the upper house, Rajya Sabha. However, the term was used in India for a time before then

Chindia is a virtual land of China and India. This land will remain virtual – at least for the foreseeable future.

Although Chindia may never become a real entity, China and India individually will have a dramatic impact on the world stage in the foreseeable future. China and India require serious attention; case of ‘hidden dragon and crouching tiger’. Without this attention, governments, businesses and, indeed, individuals may find themselves at a great disadvantage sooner rather than later.

China and India are neighbours with the Himalayas in between. They are among the fastest growing economies of the world. China ranked 2nd in the GDP for 2011, $7,298bn, and India ranked 10th, $1,827bn. They are destined to change the shape of world economics in the next half century.

The economic strengths of these two countries are considered by many as complementary: China is stronger in manufacturing and infrastructure, hardware and physical markets; while India is strong in services and information technology, software and in financial and information markets.

{The paragraphs above are derived from Chindia in Wikipedia}

The countries also share certain several historical links – the spread of Buddhism from India to China and trade on the Silk Road are some examples.

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Here is a question worthy of ‘Who wants to be a millionaire?’

“What links the three plants: morus alba, camellia sinesis, and papaver sominferum?”

 The answer is: China, India, Britain and the Honourable (sic) East India Company with silk, tea and opium!

East India Company

Original crest – left; fictitious crest – right: from Pirates of the Caribbeans

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 The EIC was founded on 31 December 1600 during Queen Elizabeth’s reign, the first joint-stock company and had sole (British) rights to trade with India. It became a colonial power in 1757, after the Battle of Plassey – the start of the ‘divide and conquer’ strategy – and lasted till 1857, as a result of the ‘Sepoy Mutiny’ (or first Indian war of independence, 1857), when the British government took over. It had not been an idle bystander before then. Col Arthur Wellesley, later to be ennobled as the Duke of Wellington, the nemesis of Napoleon, was instrumental in spreading British rule all the way down to Mysore commanding a British government regiment fighting alongside Company troops. The defeat of Tipu Sultan, ruler of Mysore did much to help spread British rule.

Having managed to dominate trade in India, EIC turned its mind to China. So much of silk, tea and porcelain were being imported into Britain and so little in return was desired by the Chinese that the trade deficit was becoming a major problem.  The answer was opium, grown in India and sold to the unsuspecting Chinese. The Qing rulers took a dim view of this and the resultant two Opium Wars (1839-42 and 1856-60) created a quasi-colony and the beginning of the ‘century of humiliation’. This was the worse than being a colony as the controlling powers had little desire to develop the country and sought merely short-term gains. Thus was, is, and will be, rampant, unregulated, self-serving, ‘winner takes all’, capitalism. {Note: I am not referring to Hong Kong which by contrast was run as a colony and hence did not suffer from being treated as Shanghai and other quasi colonies.}

Fascinatingly, delisted for over 150 years, in 1987 “The East India Company” was registered by two coffee merchants. And in 1990 they registered versions of the Company’s coat of arms as a trademark. This company has no legal continuity with the original Company, even though it claimed on its website to have been founded in 1600. This later Company was ‘relaunched’ in February 2010 when Indian entrepreneur, Sanjiv Mehta, bought all the shares, and will launch the East India Company’s store in upmarket Mayfair, London in the spring of 2010, with plans to open a second later.    

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The smuggling of and transplanting tea into India took several years to effect though eventually, British tastes turned to Indian tea in preference to Chinese tea. See excellent book: For all the Tea in China by Sarah Rose.

Concerning opium, the Qing rulers took a dim view of this and the British practiced ‘gunboat diplomacy‘ which resulted in two Opium Wars (1839-42 and 1856-60). After which China became a quasi-colony and suffered a ‘century of humiliation‘. See later section on history of China.

This was worse than being a colony as the controlling powers – at one juncture, eight nations, including Japan, attacked Peking – had little desire to develop the country and sought merely short-term gains. Thus was, is, and will be, rampant, unregulated, self-serving, ‘winner takes all’, capitalism.

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There are political, ethnic/cultural, economic and geopolitical differences between China and India that some argue make the concept of Chindia inappropriate.

China is ruled by a single-party dictatorship (or “people’s democratic dictatorship” as defined by Chairman Mao in June 1949) whereas India is a multi-party democracy – the largest democracy in the world. The recent Indian national elections drew 700 million voters at 1 million polling stations. India’s culture is highly pluralistic, whereas China has a more homogeneous population. Not least, China has greater geopolitical and military clout, as well as a permanent seat on the UN Security Council due to its role in World War II. The other four members of the Security Council: USA, USSR, Great Britain and France played a direct role in defeating Germany and Japan. China (then Republic of China) had little impact, but was included by the US to counterbalance the USSR.

In economic terms, the commonly-cited complementary nature of China being focused on manufacturing and India being focused on services is becoming outdated as the services sector in China is developing rapidly, while India’s manufacturing has grown significantly recently. China is thought to produce 40% of the world’s consumer goods; the world’s second largest trading nation. In 2009 it overtook Germany as number 1 exporter. For Christmas 2009, an estimated 70lb of toys and games were shipped to UK for every child, heavier than average 9 year old boy! This is so far ahead of India that some analysts don’t think India will ever catch up. Also, China also has a strong lead in international markets and is a major investor in Africa and South America.

Geographically, China is the fourth largest country covering 9.3m sq km and is very fertile along the coastal plains and the three great river systems, flowing west to east:
•        The Yellow River, not far from Beijing
•        The Yangtze, at Shanghai
•        The Pearl River, at Guangzhou.

But there is acute shortage of water elsewhere and only 15% of the land is arable. Inland, there are hostile regions such as deserts like the Gobi in Inner Mongolia and the Taklamakan, and high inhospitable plateaus like Tibet and Qinghai. And mountainous regions like Yunnan and Szechuan. (See South to North water diversion project.)

India is the eighth largest country covering 8.5m sq km and very fertile. The population is spread across most of India, including the Deccan plateau and the foothills of the Himalayas. Well over 50% of the land is arable. Only the Thar Desert, in Rajasthan, is sparsely populated. But being arable is one thing, having enough water is another. Despite great river systems, India’s harvest is highly dependent on the annual monsoon. Longer term there is also concern about the shrinking glaciers in the Himalayas, the source of major Indian and Chinese rivers.

A third of the world’s population live in Chindia – with over 1.3bn in China (no 1) and nearly 1.2bn
in India (no 2); a retailer’s and marketer’s dream.


GDP comparison - from Wikipedia and CIA World Factbook

World Chindia China India
Population m  (2013 est US Census Bureau) 7,170 2,611 1,365 1,246
GDP US$ billion (2013, IMF) 71.83 11.05 9.18 1.87
Per capita GDP US$ (2013, IMF) 9.93 4.23 6.70 1.50

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There are innumerable misconceptions, myths and even misinformation about China and India.

This website will try to correct these by:

  • Starting with a brief recap of the long history of both nations – to  provide a context for their attitudes towards the West.
  • Examining their social and cultural differences and similarities.
  • Moving on to economics post glasnost – uncovering the myth that China is mainly about manufacturing and India about services.
  • Analysing the political situation – including some serious causes for concern; and a brief geopolitical sit-rep.
  • Giving you our prognosis for the medium-term future.

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6 Comments to “HOME: Why Chindia?”

  1. Sir, respectfully, I am a Hong Kong resident since 1975. What I find of Western attitude (especially the British) on China and Asia in general is, formerly one of condescending ignorance and now, one of universal grovelling. There is plenty of western presumption in some of the writing here and also a few plain errors. perhaps the subject is too large.
    Still an interesting blog. All the best! alphachamber

    • @AlphaChamber – I would be most grateful if you pointed out specific instances either of ‘western presumption’ or of errors. The latter I will certainly correct and the former I will look into. I thought I was being neutral and unbiased either way! But then , as you may have read on one of my pages, I am in HK terms a ‘banana’.

      Looking forward to hearing from you.

      If your reply is a bit long, you may wish to send me a direct email; zhangchiahou@gmail.com

      Looking forward to hearing from you.

  2. I really enjoyed reading the news post on your site. :) It’s so great to find some non-biased news about China on the web. :) Thanks for sharing.

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