‘Saare jahan se achha’ is a better economic mantra
United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says a new Cold War has already started with China seeking a global hegemony that must be fought by a combined front of democracies. Sadly, President Trump has ruined trade and political relations with Europe, Japan, India, and other traditional allies. But the Chinese hegemonic threat will continue to be the great challenge of the 21st century. In this context, the clashes in the Galwan or Doklam valley are small and irrelevant skirmishes. The real battle will be fought and won at the highest technological level.
China has made great technological advances even when the United States loses strength. India sadly underestimated this. Atmanirbhar’s new Indian mantra (self-reliance) is an unfortunate throwback to Nehru’s failed self-reliance. The industries that hide behind protective trade walls will never beat China economically or strategically. Indian entrepreneurs still accuse China of using cheap labor and subsidies to get rid of cheap exports. Stop this nonsense. Far from specializing in cheap labor products, China has become the world technology leader in many areas. In 5G, the telecommunications of the future, China’s Huawei is far ahead of the competition from Ericsson of Sweden, Samsung of Korea or Nokia of Finland. Surprisingly, no American company is in dispute.
For decades, Intel was a world leader in microchips, doubling its computing power every two years. But suddenly Intel has dropped an entire generation behind Taiwan Semiconductor in microchips. When the Notre Dame de France cathedral caught fire, Chinese drones were used to guide firefighters because they were the best. JinkoSolar is the world’s largest and best provider of solar cells and panels. Chinese battery companies are making progress.
President Xi plans to make China the world’s leading power by 2025 in 10 fields, including artificial intelligence, robotics, and space technology. China is already number one or two in many of them. The United States won the Cold War due to superior technology. The Soviet Union had areas of excellence, but overall it was far behind the West. Then, he could never achieve hegemony.
The USSR followed Atmanirbhar’s philosophy of trying to do everything at home. That turned out to be a colossal failure, an expanded version of Nehru’s failure in India. Success means becoming the best in the world, and that means collaborating with the best allies in supply chains. The correct objective is not “Atmanirbhar” but “Sare jahan se achha (the best in the world)”. India cannot compete with China by producing high-cost goods behind high tariffs. You can only win by producing the best products in the world by developing the best technology in collaboration with the best partners. This means not self-sufficiency, but joining hands with other democracies to create high-tech value chains in which India becomes indispensable due to its high skills.
Today, India produces millions of useless and unemployed graduates. A new educational policy has just been presented with enough detail to fill hundreds of pages of analysis. But it fails entirely to address the sad fact that government schools are so bad that poor people take children out of free public schools and put them in expensive private schools that are hardly better, but give desperate parents some hope. , while government schools do not give them any. Government teachers lack passion, responsibility or commitment, they are absent half the time, so educational results remain bleak year after year in Pratham’s polls. When India participated in the PISA Global School Competition, it came in second. Can such a country compete with China?
Narendra Modiji, I’m not a fan of RSS. But you could use the passion and commitment that RSS undoubtedly has to create world-class schools that the formal state education system cannot. The RSS ‘Vidya Bharati school network now has 5,241 primary schools and 2,635 secondary schools with more than 3 million students. Its original goal was to instill Hindu philosophy and help create future RSS feeds. But without sacrificing this goal, why not expand this massive educational network to produce centers of excellence that can beat the Chinese?
For starters, why not look to create a dozen schools in each state that can match Chinese schools on the PISA tests? Beyond that, why not target at least two private universities in each quality Ivy League state? State governments last only five years and lack the 25-year vision necessary to create world-class institutions. But RSS can do it. Hopefully once RSS starts creating centers of excellence, other political parties will start their own schools of excellence to compete.
There is no room in a short column to develop these ideas. Briefly, change from “Atmanirbhar” to “Sare jahan se achha” as the future philosophy of India. President Xi is already doing it. Don’t be left behind.
DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed above are those of the author.