Point of This Blog

If Indian geopolitics isn't the focus of your interest then you might not see much value in this blog. You might wonder: What is the point of repeated posts boasting of better Chinese results?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Are the majority of Indians in China medical students?

There a lot of Chinese exports but the most unusual low cost Chinese product in global trade must be English language medical education. The demand from India is high and if the numbers are accurate a majority of Indian residents in mainland China are medical students enrolled in English language MBBS courses (Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery). The most recent reported estimate puts the Indian med student population at about 8,000.

According to the 2010 Chinese Census, Indians are the 8th most numerous nationality among foreign residents in mainland China. There are 15,000 Indians, a number that seems low given the larger population of 20,000 Indians in Hong Kong.

Indian students began enrolling in the last decade when modified regulations opened the door to Chinese medical education. Three primary factors drive the phenomenon:

1) Admissions standards for foreign seats at Chinese medical schools are lower compared to Indian medical colleges.
2) Tuition from foreign students is a money earner for Chinese universities but the fees are still much lower compared to the high cost of private Indian medical colleges. (Chinese medical schools are huge and can just add a couple of hundred seats.)
3) A majority of medical students are from Andhra Pradesh, a South Indian state with a particularly strong culture of upper middleclassness (families pushing children to get professional credentials).

There is probably a no more significant conduit of Chinese and Indian cultural interaction than through medical education. By the third year, Indian students must be able to speak some Chinese to work with staff and treat patients at hospitals. Years from now there will be tens of thousands of middle class Indians with years of exposure to China from their university days. I wonder if many of them will have roles in relations between the countries.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Gendercide in China and India

China and North India should be ashamed of not valuing daughters. An article last year in the Economist popularized the term gendercide to describe the widespread practice in China and a few Indian states of sex selective abortions targetting girls. The 2010 Chinese census reports an imbalance of 118 boys for every 100 girls among newborns. That's not as bad as the mid-decade high in China of 124 boys for every girls among the 1-4 age group. In India only Haryana and Punjab have gender imbalances that are comparable to the Chinese national average (but not compared to the highest Chinese provincial averages which are astonishing).

I wish to point out a part of the culture of gendercide that gets little presstime. Although gender selected abortions is the primary mechanism of eliminating girls in these parts of the world, there is a disturbing practice of inflicting death by neglect in both countries. Here are statistics collected from the CIA World Factbook.

The US like much of the world has a typical disparity in infant mortality rates (number of deaths of one year old infants or younger per 1000). The male rate is higher:

male: 6.94 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 5.55 deaths/1,000 live births

Another country, Taiwan conforms to the typical global disparity of a higher male infant mortality rate:

male: 5.64 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 5.04 deaths/1,000 live births

But in China and India, the female infant mortality rates are higher:

China | male: 18.87 deaths/1,000 live births; female: 21.77 deaths/1,000 live births
India | male: 46.18 deaths/1,000 live births; female: 49.14 deaths/1,000 live births

The higher female infant mortality rates reveal that in China and a few Indian states, parents discriminate against daughters by depriving them of nutrition and health care so their demise will give room for sons.

The elimination of so many girls by neglect is the gravest human rights crisis in China and I'm extremely disappointed in the Western media for not giving it prominence. This is an issue in which greater attention and humiliation piled on China will be effective in spurring a solution rather than backlash and defiance. If the plight of infant girls is better known, the emerging leisure activist class in developed coastal China will demand the government protect girls in backwards China.

In India where there is much greater public discussion of the implications of the growing gender imbalance, I wish opinion leaders will devote attention to this ugly aspect of the problem.

If you know journalists covering this field or know anyone who knows someone, please bring up this undercovered issue and urge a write up.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Competition in Africa

India wants to be a serious challenger to China in Africa in the game of buying influence. At the recent Africa-India Forum, PM Singh promised $5 billion over the next three years in credit to African countries.

The Indians are playing catch up. Trade between China and Africa is greater but the real Chinese lead is in influence building. Outlook listed a sample of Chinese projects that are either wholly good will building or at least only partially commercial in motive:
"Two rail roads, from Zambia to Congo and from Zambia to Tanzania; 100 wind-powered projects; 52 stadia, including six in Mali, two in Ghana and four in Angola; a $1.5 billion telecom project in Ethiopia; undertaking hydro-electric projects in Sudan, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Nigeria and Republic of Congo."
Truly this list is only a sample. The number of building projects undertaken by the Chinese state in Africa is too numerous to easily document. Against this lead in influence and trade, the Indians will try to stay competitive but I don't think this is the right strategy. China has too much going for it in developing Africa. Indians would be better off focusing on a handful of countries that they deem most vital. The state resources and individual energy that both the Chinese state and people are and will keep on applying in Africa is very formidable.

1. State Resources

China has a much bigger budget. That cash will pay for the bridges and stadiums and even the odd gift. Last year the president of Malawi married and China provided a "shiny white limosine." The contractors building any Chinese funded bridge, stadium, or other infrastructure will be Chinese, shutting out Indian and Western companies. Chinese financing and cash will allow Chinese state firms to steamroll over Indian ones in bids for oil and mining concessions. (See a Google search including the terms "ONGC," "China" and "bidding.")

2. Individual Energy

By individual energy I mean numbers on the ground, the individuals establishing businesses and making deals. The Indian diaspora is well settled in much of Africa so India had a head start. There is a Gujarati merchant minority belt stretching from Kenya to South Africa. One of the major cities of South Africa, Durban, is about 20% Indian. On top of this foundation, Bharti Airtel, an Indian mobile provider acquired the African operations of Zain for $10 billion in 2010 and is delivering a level of service that Chinese mobile companies would not be able to match. (The Indian mobile market is highly competitive and Bharti is no doubt more nimble at succeeding in the African market than a lumbering state monopoly like China Telecom which doesn't put much effort into expanding outside of China.)

However despite this notable exception and the head start, the sheer energy of Chinese people in pursuing the African dream overwhelms other diasporas. An estimated one million Chinese people are in Africa. Many are construction workers working for state companies. (Remember 35,000+ Chinese were evacuated from Libya alone at the start of the conflict so the one million figure is not implausible as it may first seem.) Many are also individual entrepreneurs. They turn up everywhere:
In contrast, the Indian diaspora in Africa tend to stick to the comfort zones of forbearers. The Chinese advantages of big budgets and cowboy entrepreneurs will give it a safe lead. Indians should concentrate efforts on a list of targetted countries rather than try to cover all 50+ countries of Africa.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

China Wants to Attack Somali Pirate Bases

The Chinese military issued an unsual statement envisioning strikes against the home ports of Somali pirates:
For counter-piracy campaigns to be effective, we should probably move beyond the ocean and crash their bases on the land... It is important that we target not only the operators, those on the small ships or crafts conducting the hijacking activities, but also the figureheads.
Any military action on foreign soil is a departure from the consistent Chinese rhetoric of non-interference in the sovereignty of other countries.

I bring up this piece of news as an opportunity to share a historical vignette related to the China-India theme of this blog. The picture of the giraffee in the Ming court in 1414 is a famous icon of the voyages of Zheng He. In seven voyages the admiral made several visits in Somalia and reached as far as Malindi, a port in south Kenya. He distributed gifts and collected tribute from these East African states including, perhaps, the girafee. However, a more favored account traces the girafee to the menagerie of the ruler of Bengal who gave it as a gift to China. How the giraffee was delivered to Bengal is a bit of a mystery. What's clear is the joint effort so I suggest the giraffee be considered a symbol of the potential for cooperation.

Shashi Tharoor pointed out the fishing nets of Kochi are the natural symbol of Sino-Indian cooperation/synthesis but he can incorporate giraffees into his next essay on the same theme.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Somali Pirate Attack on Chinese Ship Repelled by Indian Navy

Somali pirates are now operating in the near waters of India. This week a Chinese merchant vessel was hijacked by Somali pirates 850 km (!) off the coast of Karnataka.

The action parts of a report in the Times of India:
The pirates had already boarded the merchant vessel by then, with the Chinese sailors barricading themselves in a strong room," said a Navy officer.

"The aircraft made a number of low passes over the ship and strongly warned the pirates, over the radio, to leave the vessel immediately, stating that naval warships were approaching the area," he added.

The repeated warnings apparently had the desired effect, with the pirates abandoning the merchant vessel to hurry off in their skiffs.
Beginning late last year, the pirates invaded the Indian maritime sphere. The Indian Navy has been effective at thwarting attackers. They've hauled in about 120 pirates including the capture of 61 pirates in a single action. Incredibly the pirates still press on, moving closer to the coast.

Angry pirates are threatening to unravel the paradigm of piracy negotiations. Owners of an Indian merchant vessel, the MT Asphalt Venture, paid a ransom of $3.5 million but the pirates refused to release all crew members, holding onto the officers in order to arrange a swap of the captured pirates in Indian jails. Insurers are unhappy the old, reliable assumption of pay and release may break down.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Future of Mesothelioma Litigation in China and India

Although the use of asbestos is restricted or banned in most rich countries, China and India have not made serious efforts at limiting the material and are the biggest users. Widespread use of asbestos is a public health nightmare because exposure causes mesothelioma, a deadly cancer affecting the linings of the lungs and internal chest organs. In the US, use of asbestos from decades ago is haunting not only manufacturers (most sought bankruptcy protection by now) but other user industries. Billions have been paid out to claimants, usually former workers who closely dealt with asbestos and developed mesothlioma. The civil ligitation crisis has yet to peak. A RAND report estimates the costs will reach over $200 billion dollars.

The latency period of mesothelioma is long, 20-50 years, so the symptoms won't surface until decades after exposure, but it's likely that there were already thousands of deaths due to mesothelioma in the last decade in both China and India. ("Global Magnitude of Reported and Unreported Mesothelioma") Both countries have a lot of problems so these deaths aren't on the radar but that could radically change as middle classes with litigious entitlements emerge across the country.

Particularly in China, a strategy for achieving the "harminous society" is improved access to courts for personal claims as a substitute for broader political rights. The greatest threat to internal stability in China is the combined provocation of local corruption, environmental degradation, and property seizures. In areas with high stress levels for these triggers, there will be "mass incidents." So to uphold the political status quo, there must be a method for controlling the rampage of exploiter capitalists and thug property developers. One such tool is the personal injury lawsuit and an independent judiciary (independent not from the Party but the influence of Big Business). In reaction to a recent mass lead poisoning of children from a toxic factory, a cadre spoke of the need for compensatory options for individuals which will have the effect of partially satisfying grievances and regulating the misbehavior of industry:

Hu Jing, vice-director of the Environment and Resource Law Institute at China University of Political Science and Law, said it should be made easier for people to take health-related lawsuits to court.

"Lowering the difficulty of submitting health-related lawsuits is the key. The courts should accept lawsuits involving personal injuries caused by environmental pollution," Hu was quoted by Nanfang Daily as saying.

At present, lawsuits over pollution-caused personal injuries are often set aside.

Hu said the Supreme People's Court should establish a reasonable prosecution mechanism.

The dawn of this mechanism is foreseeable and asbestos industries better learn from the mistakes of American industry or perish.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A Middle Income Country in 5 Years

What can we expect in the next 5 year period (2011-2015) for China-India comparisons? A highly quoted Morgan Stanley economist believes Indian GDP growth will surpass the Chinese rate in that time period.* That might happen but even if China is no longer the fastest growing major economy, interest in China won't diminish but might actually double compared to the current level.

It's hard to imagine even more interest in China than now but the transformation of China over the next 5 years will even surprise those acclimated to the pace of miracle years. The Economist makes a projection: "China’s torrid growth puts it on course to hit the $16,740 GDP-per-head threshold by 2015..." Although Chinese GDP per capita (PPP) is $7500 for 2010, 2X+ growth in a short time is difficult to believe but highly plausible. If there is 8% real growth + 3-4% inflation + 3-4% currency appreciation over the next 5 years then the per capita will double. At the level of $16,740 per capita, China will be in the same league as countries like Chile, Mexico, and Russia (2010).

Even as someone used to miracle years, I still have a hard time imagining a huge, relatively poor country becoming a middle income country in 5 years. Everyone else will also struggle to make sense of such mind boggling overnight change.

*Update: In 2010 India was the fastest growing major economy. Read the Economist analysis.