On corruption,ball firmly on China side of net:expert

New Delhi: Sino-India relations may have swung between lukewarm and blustery over the years but competition is inherent in their separate paths of development though India cannot claim the moral higher ground when it comes to corruption, says China expert Jonathan Fenby.

The seasoned journalist, whose new book "Tiger Head, Snake Tails: China Today, How It Got There and Where it Is Heading" links together myriad features of today`s China, says the two countries are constantly compared as analysts swing between them in their forecasts of which will grow fastest.

"Advocates for India point to its democracy, legal system and favourable demographics with more young people than China in a population that is forecast to overtake that of the PRC by 2030. The relative strength of Indian domestic demand also makes it less reliant than the PRC on exports and so provides protection from a global downturn."

Fenby says the metaphor of India`s tortoise overtaking China`s hare when it runs out of breath is sometimes invoked. "However, as things stand, China has the edge with significantly greater per capita income and stronger economic indicators. It enjoys higher levels of literacy, with a ratio of teachers to students three times that of India and average schooling of 7.5 years compared with 4.4 in its neighbour across the Himalayas. As has become increasingly apparent, India cannot claim the moral higher ground when it comes to corruption. The ball appears firmly on China`s side of the net," the book, published by Simon and Schuster, says.

According to Fenby, Chinese damming of rivers that flow down from its Himalayan territory into India is a further cause of concern – which would be heightened if Beijing sought to divert the water towards itself.

"There is the political divide between a democracy and an authoritarian state. Chinese tend to regard Indians as messy, disorganised and probably dirty people incapable of getting their act together, while Indians see the Chinese as regimented mice doing what they are told without any of the individuality that marks their own country. None of this means direct conflict is likely. Relations blow between lukewarm and blustery," he writes.

In his book Fenby says that "dissidence is equivalent to treason". But he does not want to equate the Bo Xilai episode with dissidence in the "sense of organised calls for democracy or lawyers who defy the authorities". However, he feels the Communist Party wants to preserve its control of its members even those as highly placed as Bo.

According to him, the Bo episode is the most dramatic political thriller to come out of China since the Tiananmen Square tragedy but this event does not hold any significance for India.

"The party secretary of Shanghai was also unseated half- a-dozen years ago but he was not as high profile a figure as Bo and there has been much more reporting and rumour in the Bo case than there was then with the Internet pumping up the traffic," Fenby told PTI about the sacked Communist leader, currently being investigated by the party`s disciplinary commission for blocking investigations into the death of British businessman Neil Heywood.

He feels the Bo episode does not have much impact on India or relations between Beijing and Delhi "which will continue in their somewhat scratchy shape. This is an internal Chinese matter and India should not get involved."

He also says that Bo`s career is over. "The question is the degree of sanction against him. Will he simply be put out to pasture in return for confessing to failure, or will he be publicly punished? It seems that the criminal allegations are all being directed against his wife. Levelling such accusations against a member of the Politburo would be embarrassing for the party," he says.