Can India Beat China as a Global Superpower?
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Can India Beat China as a Global Superpower?

India has just overtaken China as the most populous country in the world according to the United Nations (UN). Are they able to rival their neighbors as a global superpower as well?

China still has the upper hand in terms of economy, geopolitical influence, and military might. But these circumstances are changing, experts say.

For 2001 Nobel Prize winner in economics, Michael Spence, India’s momentum has come.

“India will overtake China,” Stanford University dean and lecturer told the BBC. “China’s economy will slow down, while India’s will not.”

But there are several challenges ahead.

China has the second largest economy in the world, nearly five times larger than fifth-ranked India.

With a relatively small middle class, India needs major investments in education, quality of life, gender equality, and economic reforms to achieve the “China model” boom.

Not only that, becoming a global superpower requires more than just a large population and economy. But it also depends on geopolitical and military power. India is still lagging behind in these two areas.

Soft power also has an important role. The Indian Bollywood film industry has been very effective in promoting the country on the international scene. Indian films are able to break records on Netflix.

However, there is also a phenomenon known as Chinawood: China’s thriving film industry. Chinawood even won Hollywood’s position for the first time as the world’s best-selling box office in 2020, and did it again in 2021.

India’s economic momentum
Indian and Chinese populations
Currently, 86,000 babies are born in India every day. The birth rate beats China which has 49,400 babies per day.

With a low birth rate, China’s population is shrinking and is expected to be less than a billion inhabitants by the end of the century.

The UN says India’s population will continue to grow until 2064, jumping from 1.4 billion to 1.7 billion in 2064.

This would give India a “demographic dividend” – a term that refers to rapid economic growth thanks to an increasing population of working age.

“Dividends from the incremental reforms of the 1990s in India are showing dividends now. But how much of the workforce is educated, healthy, skilled, and able to contribute to the economy?” explained Professor Mark Frazier, director of the India China Institute at the New School in New York.

While they have attracted the interest of major multinationals such as Apple and Foxconn in recent months, India’s internal bureaucracy and the instability that comes with repeated regulatory changes usually worries international investors.

“That’s a thought that is very identical to the 19th century, that the bigger the population of a country, the more powerful that country is,” added Frazier, because there are so many factors.

Today, only half of India’s productive age population (14-64 years) are working or actively looking for work, according to the World Bank.

For women of reproductive age, they make up only 25% in India. Less compared to 60% in China and 52% in the European Union.

China’s economy has grown far compared to other countries after a number of reforms that occurred in the 1980s and 1990s.

However, a mix of the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, an aging population, and geopolitical tensions with Western countries have taken their toll on the country.

India’s GDP is now growing faster than China’s, and the IMF predicts that growth will continue.

But is slower GDP growth causing China to fall behind?

“If China grows at around 4% or 5% until 2030, that would be a great achievement. Some people think that for a country that is used to growing 8-9% this is a bad drop, but that’s not the right way to think,” said Professor Spence.

“China is now more akin to the United States. The US has never grown to the rate of 8, 9, 10%. They will rely on productivity growth and I think they can achieve that with large investments in education, science and technology.”

China’s military expansion
China and India are two countries that both have nuclear powers that give them a strong position on the world chessboard.

The Federation of American Scientists estimates that China’s nuclear stockpile is 2.5 times larger than India’s.

the armed forces of China and India
China has almost 600,000 more soldiers in its armed forces, and they’re really investing heavily in the defense industry.

“India is still very dependent on Russia and imported technology and expertise, whereas it is clear that China has done a lot of domestic research and development to improve their military infrastructure,” Frazier said.

While China has an advantage in the defense sector, India also benefits from better relations with Europe and the United States. It is in this stronghold that most of the military power rests.

“India can be an important strategic partner in the Indo-Pacific Region, where the US government is building a sort of security zone around China that includes not only East Asia, but South Asia as well.

“And not just the West Pacific Ocean, but also the Indian Ocean,” added Prof Frazier.

Geopolitical alternative
This year, India hosted the G20 meeting and used the opportunity to promote itself to 85% of the global economy who sat together at the round table to attend several meetings.

While China’s relationship with the world’s most powerful nations has become increasingly fragile since Donald Trump’s US presidency, it is a major economic partner for more than 120 countries, from Russia and South Africa to Saudi Arabia and the European Union.

There is also their multi-trillion-dollar infrastructure called the Belt and Road Initiative that is increasing China’s political influence on other countries.

Although India is seen as an important geopolitical partner by the West, China holds one of five seats on the UN Security Council.

This means they have the say – and veto power – for almost all major global decisions taken by the agency.

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India and other developing countries have tried to change this situation, but without success.

“I do not believe there will be a change in the permanent members of the Security Council, even though we all know that it makes no sense that the victors of the conflict that ended in 1945 are still leading the global security order,” Frazier said.

Professor Michael Spence agreed.

“The right to vote in determining decisions has absolutely no effect on economic power and influence.

“So there will come a point where the world will change these institutions or they will start to lose their significance, because new alternatives will emerge.”

Today, the main alternative is called the Brics – a bloc composed of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa to counter the economic and geopolitical influence of the North.

‘soft power’
Chinawood: China’s cinemas will outperform the US film industry in 2020 and 2021
Chinawood: China’s cinemas will outperform the US film market in 2020 and 2021

A century ago, Hollywood was able to transform the film industry into a powerful tool for exporting US values and influence to the world stage.

China and India have been successful in following this strategy.

In China, the number of cinemas has increased 20-fold since 2007, reaching more than 80,000 (compared to 41,000 in the US and 9,300 in India).

“Prior to the pandemic, Chinawood was able to maintain growth momentum and grow their influence globally through films co-produced and acquired by Hollywood film studios,” said Wendy Su, Chinese professor of Media and Culture Studies at the University of California.

Although, they managed to beat the US film market for two consecutive years in 2020 and 2021, China’s box office fell 36% in 2022 due to the closure of cinemas due to Covid.

While Bollywood is widely known as Asia’s version of Hollywood, Chinawood remains a relatively foreign term to many.

“Bollywood influence is bigger and stronger around the world,” said Su.

“Even in China, Bollywood films have a big impact on Chinese audiences. Dangal [a 2016 Bollywood film about former wrestler Mahavir Singh Phogat] beat nearly all Hollywood films in China and became the number one film at the Chinese box office for 16 days in a row.

“The film ran for 60 days, one of the longest running runs in global film history.”

Source : BBC News