There is no ‘Number 1’ collective consciousness… Comparing with ‘populous countries’ India and China – Chosun Ilbo VRESP TODAY

The author lived in Beijing, China for an extended period of time in 1994, 30 years ago. While he was staying in Japan, as the China craze spread, he decided to live in Beijing for field study and understanding of China. It was not a time like now when foreigners were treated like criminals with the Anti-Espionage Act.

Jinsong (勁松), about 7km southeast of Tiananmen Square, was his residence at the time. It was a two-bedroom apartment for $100. At the time, the monthly salary of Beijing migrant workers, who were 24-hour construction workers who were provided with room and board, was around $40. It was in 1994 that escalators were first introduced throughout mainland China. At the time, the police were quickly dispatched due to the crowds of customers waiting to see the escalator inside the newly opened Japanese department store.

In the fall of 2023, the author stayed in India for two months. She visited six cities in total, including New Delhi, Mumbai and Punjab. In order to observe further accelerated changes in India, the author plans to visit India again starting in April.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Make in India’ project to transform the Indian nation, taking place in 2024, brings back memories of China from 30 years ago. Based on this field experience, comparative analysis between the two countries becomes possible.

30 years ago, China was a socialist country with nothing to do with the stock market. Socialism denies stocks, the flower of capitalism. Hong Kong, under British rule, was an external window for Chinese investment at the time. When I visited China in 1994, Western economic sanctions related to the Tiananmen Square incident had just been lifted. The Hong Kong stock market soared. The stock market frenzy currently taking place in Mumbai was ‘the same’ happening in China a generation ago. In my eyes, India is like déjà vu from China at the end of the 20th century.

From an economic perspective, one day in India in 2024 will be equivalent to a month, or even a year, in the 20th century. To follow a Japanese expression, we could say, ‘This is no longer the India of the 20th century.’

India without ‘ID photo’

However, although similar in terms of ultra-fast economic growth, the economic models of India and China are significantly different. Just as the cultures, civilizations, and nationalities of the two countries are different, there are clear differences that are difficult to understand from external figures.

Let’s start by recalling the images surrounding the Indian and Chinese economies.

When you think of China, you probably think of huge factories filled with tens or even hundreds of thousands of workers. The image of the Foxconn factory, which produces iPhones, is an ‘identification photo’ that concisely shows the image of the Chinese economy.

What kind of image will India have? No matter how much I think about it, there is no ID photo that is clearly formed into one piece. When you think of India, the Ganges River comes to mind, and Hindu believers who are crazy about rainbow-colored powder and dancing for various religious festivals come to mind. When it comes to the economy, it is difficult to imagine Indian workers working mechanically on production lines like Chinese workers.

When it comes to the image of India on an economic level, the first thing that comes to mind is ‘Indians’, not ‘India’. The image of top executives at American IT companies or large manufacturing companies is associated with the Indian economy. Moving to the realm of politics, the images of an Indian prime minister in the UK and an Indian Republican female candidate in the US come to mind.

Although India is said to have become the world’s most populous country, there appears to be no consumer group comparable to China’s middle class. It is said that India is experiencing rapid economic growth, but it is difficult to understand how it is changing. Just like the mysterious Hindu religion, the Indian economy also seems to be a mysterious entity shrouded in fog.

A country without a Chinatown

India cannot be explained through eyes accustomed to China. In my opinion, India and China do not know much about each other and have no interest in each other. The two countries have lived on completely separate continents due to the Himalayan Mountains and the sea. Should we say that the relationship between the two countries is similar to that of Buddhist monk Xuanzang in the 7th century who visited India, then called Cheonchuk, to obtain Buddhist scriptures?

From what I observed while living in China in the past, the Chinese’s image of India can be summed up in one word: ‘a country that doesn’t eat pork.’ In fact, Indians are vegetarians who avoid most meats, not just pork.

On the other hand, in China, all four-legged and two-legged animals are considered food. Among these, pork is China’s culture, tradition, and economy itself. Pork is one of the key economic indicators that inform China’s real economic situation. Just like Jjajangmyeon in Korea, you can tell the state of the economy by looking at the price of pork. Therefore, India, which does not have pork and avoids meat itself, is outside of China’s interest from the beginning.

The same goes for India. To Indians who avoid eating meat and respect cows, China, where they eat any living thing, is an uncivilized country.

When I stayed in Mumbai, India last year, the Chinese temple I visited was the only one in all of India. As of the 21st century, India is the only country without a single Chinatown. There are attempts to create something similar to a Chinatown for tourism purposes, but very few Chinese people want to live in India. Conflict between the two countries is one of the reasons, but it can also be explained by the fact that very few Chinese people can live without pork.

Likewise, there are very few Indians living in China. Although India has become the world’s most populous country, only about 50,000 Indians live in China. Although there are more than the thousands of Chinese living in India, the way the two countries view each other is like a ‘cow-and-chicken relationship’ itself.

I don’t know much about Korea and India

It’s not just because of pork, but Korea, which can be said to belong to the Chinese cultural sphere, also treats India as a distant country. There are very few Koreans who truly understand or want to know about India. Most of the reactions from my Korean friends when I stayed in India were very simple. In short, it boils down to ‘India = sexual assault.’ They worry, “Why did you go to that dangerous country?” India is a democratic country. There is freedom of speech and direct criticism of the government is possible. Although it is a large country with a population of 1.4 billion, China is a tightly controlled communist one-party dictatorship.

News of sexual assault that breaks out periodically in India attracts attention because it is a collective crime and mainly occurs against foreign tourists. No matter which country you go to, there is crime. The number of crimes in a communist dictatorship like China will never be small. It is simply not reported to the outside world due to strict control.

From what I personally feel, ‘India = sexual assault’ is exaggerated news. Sometimes, stabbings occur in the Seoul subway, so people see it as ‘Korean subway = samurai stage.’ Considering that most Indians are devout Hindus, India’s crime rate may be even lower.

India moves as an ‘individual’ rather than a ‘group’

As I said before, if you look at it with eyes familiar with the ‘Foxconn Chinese factory’, it is impossible to explain India. Korea is a country accustomed to visual perception. In fact, Korea is a country that produces export goods and accumulates capital in Foxconn-style factories. And this model originated in Japan. If we look at its distant origins, it can be said that the American-style conveyor belt system developed at the Ford Motor Company became the standard and model for factories in Korea, Japan, and China.

What about India? It is a country far from Ford-style management, factories, and neat robot systems. There is no admiration for the American model, and there is no American-style production system or management factory.

You said earlier that it is difficult to unite India’s image. The reason is that the subject of action is an individual, not a group. India is a country driven by individual Indians, not by a group of Indians.

Korea, Japan, and China actually move as a group, with only partial differences. At least when it comes to work, the group is the basic unit. There is no such worldview in India.

From what I have observed, the biggest difference between India and China is the presence or absence of patriotism.

In India, there is no idea or concept of ‘India being the best country in the world’. There is no worldview that looks down on the entire world while crying out for ‘India No. 1’.

China ignores India

China is the exact opposite. The name of the country means ‘the center of the world.’ ‘China Number 1’, based on Chinese ideology, is China’s national religion. The idea that ‘China will soon surpass the United States and dominate the world’ dominates the hearts and minds of ordinary Chinese people as well as Chinese political leaders.

It may take a hundred steps, but Korea and Japan are also similar to China. K-self-praise, which is captivating the hearts of Koreans in 2024, and Japanese imperialism during the Pacific War are similar in that they have a world view of ‘Korea is number 1’. The group is the driving force that specifically moves this world view.

Not only does India not have a world view of ‘our country number 1’, it also lacks a group-like dynamic. Indian religion places great emphasis on personal discipline. Traditional Indian yoga is an extension of personal meditation. Buddha’s nirvana is based on individual awakening. This is also why Indian companies have nothing to do with the ‘Foxconn-style’ corporate image.

From a Chinese worldview, there is no choice but to either not acknowledge India’s economic growth at all or to evaluate it pessimistically. This is because there does not seem to be an environment or ability to quickly bring together tens of thousands of people and connect them to a factory.

In my view, 99% of Chinese people ignore India. This may be because they are intoxicated with their own success story, but they do not believe in the possibility of ‘China’s collapse and India’s leap forward’ at all. I believe that it is only a passing wind due to the decoupling of the US and China, that the India craze will soon end, and that China’s world domination is just around the corner. This kind of thinking is also the starting point of the ‘national isolation mindset’, which denies that the world is changing and a new era is coming.

Japan to India

Currently, the highlight of the global economy is India. There is also Japan, but its limitations are clear in terms of rate of return. Stable profits can be earned in Japan, but if you want to make a fortune, it is India, the eldest brother of the Global South. The world’s money is flocking to India.

However, Korea is out of this trend. Perhaps because they are familiar with China’s growth theory, Korea is one of the countries that are questioning the today and tomorrow of India, an ‘unfamiliar world’. Last year, Korea’s investment in India amounted to only $200 million. This is in contrast to the keen interest in China that Koreans showed during the establishment of diplomatic relations between Korea and China in 1992. This is because they are stuck in the ‘Foxconn China’ worldview and have no confidence in India, where only the image of the Ganges River comes to mind.

What about neighboring Japan? In fact, Japan is also a country familiar with Chinese-style success stories. ‘India risks’ such as lack of investment-related laws or different administrative laws for each state government are mentioned almost every day. There is also a considerable amount of public opinion that is half-confident about India’s future. However, the overall mood is that India’s future is bright.

Let’s look at Japan’s direct investment in Asia in 2023. Japan’s top investment destination in Asia in 2023 will be Singapore. Compared to 2019 before the pandemic, it is $70 billion, a 330% increase. Second place is Vietnam, with a 210% increase to $6 billion. Third place is India, up 91% to $6.5 billion.

On the other hand, there are countries where the amount of investment has decreased compared to 2019. A representative country is China, with a 20% decrease to $9 billion. Investment in Korea also decreased by 47%, amounting to only $1.3 billion. It has fallen the most among Japan’s top 10 investment destinations in Asia. In terms of investment amount, it is only about 1/60th of Singapore.

Last year, Japan’s investment in India was about 30 times that of Korea. However, looking at the actual situation, it should be seen that it amounts to $76.5 billion, which is about 360 times that of Korea. This is because Japan’s investment in Singapore has a strong character as a ‘cushion investment’ towards India. This is because the investment is made through Indians, who account for 13% of Singapore’s population of 5.5 million. While Korea is anxious about India’s future, Japan, the United States, and Europe are advancing into India at a rapid pace.

China of ‘land’, India of ‘sea’

The author often compares China and India with the terms ‘land’ and ‘sea.’ The land is China and the sea is India.

Pork, which is synonymous with China and the Chinese people, is also a symbol of the land. The pig doesn’t move. Unlike nomadic animals such as sheep or cattle, they are animals that are born, grow, and die in one place. The Chinese genes, synonymous with the sedentary people who live attached to the land, are themselves incorporated into the short-legged pig.

Unlike China, India is a country accustomed to living on land, sea, and even space. The highest god of Indian Hinduism is Shiva. There are a ton of myths involved. What’s interesting is that much of the mythology is set in the sea and space, away from land. The most famous sea-related story is the creation myth called ‘Samudra Mantana’ in Sanskrit. It is a story that can be interpreted as an unfamiliar Chinese character meaning ‘agitating the sea’, and the reason why Shiva’s face became pale is also contained in ‘Samudra Mantana’.

The story begins with the fight between God and the devil. In the process of punishing the devil, ‘Amrita’, the medicine of eternal life, is needed. But the medicine of eternal life lies at the bottom of the milky ocean, thousands of kilometers deep. The gods install a huge rotating shaft in the middle of the ocean to dig up the bottom of the Milk Ocean. Initially, in the process of digging up the milk ocean, a huge amount of poison spreads. Shiva, the greatest Hindu god, drinks all the poison from the sea. This is why his face turned blue. After the elixir of eternal life is taken out, the gods win the battle against the devil and a new world is created.

The Hindu creation myth ‘Samudra Mantana’ is an incredible story that cannot be compared to the Chinese worldview. In that it is set on an endless sea and uses a high mountain brought by the gods as the center of the axis of rotation, the Chinese version of ‘fake’ is no match for it. The fact that they dug under the sea for a thousand years to find the medicine of eternal life and used a huge snake as a rope to push and pull the rotating axis is also beyond the imagination of the Chinese.

“Journey to the West” and “Arabian Nights”

In contrast to India, in China there are very few stories about the sea. The story of Zheng He from the Ming Dynasty in the 14th century, put forward by China, is false if you go into the inside story. First of all, Zheng He is not Chinese (Han Chinese) but an Arab who believes in Islam. China, which is far from having sea genes, issued a sea ban after Zheng He’s voyage of discovery and stopped ocean voyages. Afterwards, the lifting of the ban became a de facto national ordinance in China. The same was true for Joseon, which had the Ming Dynasty as its master. The national isolation mindset, which is strongly rooted in the genes of the land, is a natural conclusion.

China also has stories about adventure and the unknown. This is 《Journey to the West》 in which Son Wukong appears. It is based on the adventures of Xuanzang, who went to Heaven to obtain Buddhist scriptures in the 7th century, and is also interesting in that it takes place outside of China, that is, in India and its surrounding countries. However, even Journey to the West is very Chinese in that it unfolds only on land and has nothing to do with the sea.

On the other hand, India is full of stories centered on the sea. It’s easy to forget, but until the Age of Exploration in the 16th century, the products that dominated global trade were pepper, gold, and precious stones from India. Indians played a leading role, but Arabs from the Middle East also played a supporting role. Traces of it remain in the story of Sinbad in the Arabian Nights, who went on seven great adventures at sea.

One of the reasons why Korea feels distant from India may be because it is immersed in the Chinese worldview that does not know the genes of the land, that is, the sea and tries to stay away from it. It may be coincidental or inevitable, but Mumbai, the center of India and the largest window to the outside world, faces west to Europe and the Middle East, not to the east, where Korea and China are located.

Biden picks India first on the war against China

On March 8, U.S. President Joe Biden delivered the State of the Union address to Congress. It may have been because he was behind Trump in the opinion polls, but Biden’s 67-minute speech was passionate and moving.

What I focused on was the China-related part at the end of the speech. Biden declared that the United States’ policy is fair competition, not conflict with China, but expressed antipathy toward China, a communist dictatorship, in many places. He emphasized a united front against China in Asia and pointed out four countries as cooperation countries with the United States. The first country mentioned was India, followed by Australia, Japan, and Korea. Korea was mentioned last. I can feel that Korea’s status in the United States is falling further and further. It is often said that it is a ‘solid ROK-US alliance,’ but from the US perspective, it is only behind India, Australia, and Japan.

Currently, the core of America’s Asian security policy, and indeed its global military policy, is China. The Ukraine issue and the Gaza conflict are important, but from the U.S. perspective, they are not their business. As Donald Trump claims, even if Ukraine were to fall into Russian hands, the damage to the United States would not be immediately visible.

China is different. This is because China treats the United States as an enemy. China’s overseas expansion is directly related to U.S. security. India actively supports these American ideas and arguments. Abandoning the existing policy of non-alignment and neutrality, it is also participating in the Quad, a four-nation consultative body of the United States, Japan, Australia, and India that is clearly anti-China solidarity.

The first reason Biden mentioned India as a friend of the United States was because of the China issue, which has emerged as the biggest security issue in the United States. If the United States clashes with China in the Taiwan Strait, India’s role and status will inevitably be enormous. Even if India does not directly participate in the war, the mere fact that India’s military power is located in the South China Sea can intimidate China.

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About bryan michael

I am a news writer, editor and journalist with more than 13 years of experience. I have an MA in Journalism and have published work in various publications around the world. With me, you don't have to worry about copyright and defamation issues or being punished by search engines. You get original work that complies with media laws. Communication: I really prioritize good communication with clients, from their expectations to the initial plan and vision of the project in particular. Tell me what you want - even down to the level of 'how' you want it written. Nonetheless, I must note that self-expression is very important to me and I hope to reach a solution together with the client but not at the expense of the quality of the finished product.

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