Navigating the Future Together: The Growing Symbiosis of China and India
By Chen Wenling

Navigating the Future Together: The Growing Symbiosis of China and India

Feb. 28, 2024  |     |  0 comments

China and India are ancient civilizations with rich histories and cultures, both countries share a profound cultural tradition. Buddhism, introduced by Siddhartha Gautama in India is an integral part of Chinese cultural tradition. Historically, both China and India were subjected to imperialist colonization and are countries that gained independence through national liberation movements in the last century. As founding members and proponents of the Non-Aligned Movement, they stand among the rapidly developing countries in today's significantly changing global landscape. As countries of the Global South and the Third World, China and India are committed to peaceful development and the establishment of a multipolar world.

The shared history, culture, values, and commitment to multipolarity between China and India dictate that at critical historical moments and in creating future history, the two nations should seek common ground while respecting their differences, transforming rivalry into a synergistic dance of the ‘Dragon and Elephant’.

The global significance of China and India can be seen from four aspects: 

First, China and India have jointly become the core forces in the global shift from West to East and North to South. Over the past 70 years since the founding of the People's Republic of China, especially during the 40 years of reform and opening-up, and the decade following the 18th CPC National Congress, China's GDP has doubled every seven years. India is also one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, with its GDP growth consistently above 6% for many years. According to projections by research institutions like the World Bank and OECD, suggest that by 2050, China and India will occupy the first and second positions as the world’s largest economies, respectively. Their future as the most populous nations with the largest economic scale will be a historic and fundamental reshaping of the global economic structure. In this new era, China and India should seize opportunities, advance together and achieve mutual prosperity, while resisting any external forces to drive a wedge between them.

Second, both countries are playing increasingly pivotal roles in the United Nations, G20, BRICS, and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. This year, India has successfully hosted the G20 and the SCO meetings. Similarly, China has successfully hosted the third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation and summits with Europe and Central Asia. On major international and regional issues, China and India share similar positions on major international and regional issues, with extensive common interests in South-South cooperation, poverty reduction, climate change, and energy security. Drawing strength and wisdom from their ancient civilizations, the two countries are positioned to collaboratively promote stability and developmental momentum into a world beset by turmoil.

Third, China and India are indispensable components of global industry and supply chains. China's manufacturing sector accounts for approximately 30% of the world's total, boasting a complete industrial system and supply chain, with its primary clusters remaining in China and some shifting to India. Seventy-five percent of India's imports are intermediate goods, indicating not a distancing but a tighter industrial and supply chain relationship between the two nations. With significant demographic advantage, India's potential to emerge as a global manufacturing powerhouse is well within reach. The industrial and supply chains of China and India are poised to become increasingly integrated and complementary.

Fourth, the collaboration between China and India has witnessed significant progress and achievement. Notably, the AIIB, under China’s leadership, has shown strong preference for India by investing $2.9 billion in 13 infrastructure projects since 2016, resulting in a total $4 billion in loans, the highest among AIIB member countries. The first president of the New Development Bank, a BRICS institution, was from India and took office in Shanghai. India, initially lacking in new energy, has now become an exporter of photovoltaic products, largely due to investments from Chinese companies. The establishment of the Mundra Solar PV project in India by China, with an annual producing capacity of 30,000 tons of electronic grade polysilicon and 500 tons of silane, has not only addressed India's previous shortfall in polysilicon production but also enabled it to surpass Europe and South Korea in this sector.

How should China and India move towards cooperation? I have several suggestions:

First, strengthen economic ties between China and India by advancing economic and trade cooperation in six areas: trade and investment, where China surpassed the US as India's largest trading partner in 2022; intensifying cooperation in industrial and supply chains; amplifying collaboration in the semiconductor sector, where India's development is rapid but still far behind China; enhancing financial cooperation, especially under BRICS and SCO mechanisms; strengthening energy cooperation to create a favorable international market and geopolitical environment, a need heightened by the Russia-Ukraine conflict; and increasing cooperation on climate and environmental issues.

Second, regarding global development and governance issues that impact the developing world and the fate of humanity, the two countries need to engage in deep dialogue and cooperation. This approach forms the macro environment for the economic development of the two countries that should assist the Global South in securing greater representation and legitimate interests through a more equitable and rational global governance framework.

Third, it is important to accurately acknowledge the economic disparity between China and India and avoid the pitfall of perceiving the relationship as a zero-sum game. Recognizing that both nations can benefit from cooperative growth rather than competitive detriment is crucial for fostering a mutually beneficial partnership.

In conclusion, China and India have emerged as two indispensable pillars of the global economy and governance system. As the world's two most populous nations, their partnership will define the 21st century and shape the future of the Global South. Moving forward, strengthening economic ties, enhancing cooperation on global issues, and promoting mutually beneficial growth provide a pragmatic approach for China and India to realize their tremendous potential and navigate the future together. With political will and mutual understanding, the "dragon and elephant" can develop an even closer strategic cooperative partnership, make important contributions to global peace and development, and build a community with a shared future for mankind.