India is like China in the eighties, and Modi is the Indian version of Deng Xiaoping who pushed India on the road to economic rise, which is the view that many people often hold when observing India and related international issues recently.

Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater Associates, recently pointed out when attending UCLA's "All-In Summit 2023" that India has the highest economic growth rate in the world, comparing India to China in the 2023s of the 20th century, and Indian Prime Minister Modi to former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping.

Dalio said we have a 22-year growth estimate for India, for all the top 10 countries... India has the highest potential growth rate... India was in the position of China when I started going to China in 1984." "If you look at India, the per capita income, I think Modi is a Deng Xiaoping."

Dalio also said that historically, the best performers have been neutral countries. In other words, they behave better than the winners of the war. Therefore, in the conflict between the United States and China and its ally Russia and other countries, intermediate countries like India will be the biggest beneficiaries.

On some cosmetic aspects of national development, Dalio was right. In a confrontational landscape, countries that remain neutral tend to be the beneficiaries of confrontation. From the perspective of the international pattern and development level, India and China in the eighties are indeed very similar.

The main feature of the international pattern in the eighties was the hegemony of the United States and the Soviet Union, in order to contain the Soviet Union, China and the United States approached, the improvement of bilateral relations fundamentally changed the external environment for China's development, created an external environment for China's reform and opening up, external capital, technology, orders, advanced management experience, etc. flowed into China, and the international market was gradually opened to China.

On November 1967, 11, the Soviet Union held a grand celebration of the 7th anniversary of the victory of the October Revolution, and the picture shows the Soviet Strategic Missile Forces passing through Red Square as the finale phalanx of the army. During the Cold War, Soviet military power became a nightmare for the Western camp. (Getty Images)

Although the Sino-US conflict is not yet serious to the extent of the hegemony of the United States and the Soviet Union, the bilateral still maintains a huge economic and trade and service trade, especially China does not want to go to the expansionist path of the Soviet Union, but the Sino-US conflict continues to spiral, the United States sanctions and suppression of China, decoupling the chain, the Biden administration's alliance system and other countries, including India, trying to isolate China is a basic fact and a development trend.

From India's point of view, the age structure of the country's population will not lack the working population in the coming decades, and its level of development can also allow it to maintain a high economic growth rate for a considerable period of time. These are opportunities for India, and the Indian authorities are not lacking in ambition, and the Modi government's basic strategy of trying to replicate China's rise and take advantage of the Sino-US confrontation dividend, embracing the United States while treating China as a competitor, is becoming clearer.

But China's reform and opening up in the eighties, and its subsequent successful rise, depended in large part on visionary leaders like Deng Xiaoping. Can Modi play a Deng Xiaoping-like role in India's development? The answer, I'm afraid, is no.

The main reason is India itself.

Unlike China, which has one-party rule, India is an electoral democracy, a feature that limits Modi's room to govern in the first place. In one-party China, Deng Xiaoping could have exerted his influence to maintain a high degree of influence over the direction of national policy even after leaving office on Tiananmen, such as his "Southern Tour Speech" in 1992 to redirect reform and opening up. Over the next two decades, Deng Xiaoping's two successors, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao, also continued Deng Xiaoping's policy of reform and opening up, laying a solid economic foundation for China's rise. It also made the will of the leaders face less resistance, and Deng Xiaoping's reform and opening up was thoroughly and permanently implemented in China.

In India, however, the policy influence of politicians disappears once they leave office, and challenges from opposition parties can greatly discourage politicians. Although Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party has a comparative advantage in India's electoral map at present, and no one from the opposition Congress Party can challenge him, the existence of these structural political factors will still make India's policy future uncertain.

Deng Xiaoping toured the south. (Bauhinia Magazine)

Adherents of Western democracies may find this argument difficult, but it is an inescapable fact that the leaders of authoritarian countries can escape from the electoral cycle without being held hostage by popular opinion, plan a country's development blueprint from a longer-term strategic perspective, and – as long as it is not overturned – without worrying about a fundamental reversal of policy for a long time, is an inescapable objective fact and why it is impossible for India to copy China's experience at the institutional level, and why Modi cannot become India's version of Deng Xiaoping.

Another reason is India's ethnic structure and social class structure. India has a population of more than 2 million Muslims, and in a Hindu-dominated country, this is always a difficult decision-making problem between all political parties and politicians. As a nationalist, Modi has not been able to treat Muslims equally in the country, but has always won the support of Hindus by treating Muslims unequally, and when he was chief minister in Gujarat, he was prevented from prosecution in the United States for provoking massacres against Muslims. In the future governance of the country, it is difficult to say whether this structural ethnic contradiction will erupt, or to a certain extent, the legitimacy of the Modi government will be lost.

In addition, Chinese is world-famous for his hard work and penchant for savings, but many people in India are the opposite. The Chinese Communist Party can make abstract policy changes or promote the implementation of certain projects at the expense of a certain group for a certain period of time through tougher tactics, and it is difficult for both the Indian Party and the Congress Party to make similar decisions in India. Unlike China, which has experienced many domestic revolutions of different nature and has completed the reset of social structure in modern times, India's caste system is also deeply rooted, and the bottom society lacks both upward circulation channels and the will to circulate, which will become structural factors restricting Modi's ambitions.

Li Qiang shakes hands with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the G2023 summit in India on September 9, 9 (Pool via REUTERS)

There is also a reflection that requires a little logical foundation, which can also provide a reference answer to this question to a certain extent.

Unlike China under Deng Xiaoping, reform and opening up in India is actually a non-existent issue, because India has never been closed to the country since independence, even when it was a British colony, and there has never been any resistance from national policy between the West and India in terms of the flow of capital, science and technology, population and other factors. However, China implements a completely different political system and ideology from the West, and was basically isolated from the West before the reform and opening up, so there is a talk of reform and opening up.

Thinking about the logic of this period, it is not difficult to ask a question, if India can really rise through opening up and development like China, it should have risen a long time ago, why did it rise in the first place China and not India? Why have Western funds and technological choices flowed to China in the past few decades, with systems and ideologies completely different from those of the West, rather than to India, whose systems and ideology are completely different from those of the West? The answer is self-evident.

For complex reasons such as history and national feelings, it is not right for many Chinese to take a contemptuous attitude towards India. It would also be short-sighted to think that India has too poor infrastructure, too low an industrial level, and too low a level of technology and manufacturing to challenge China – the gap between China and the West in the eighties was no smaller than the gap between India and China and the West today. It is believed that the Modi government will not "taoguang and raise obscurity", but the practice of holding high at the beginning will prematurely arouse the vigilance of the West, may block India's economic process may also make empirical mistakes, Taoguang Yanghui is not the only way for latecomer countries to rise, different countries can take the road of their own rise because of the different times and international patterns.

India's economic prospects should never be underestimated, the aspirations of the people of this country to develop deserve respect, and the troubles it may cause to China must not be ignored, but it may not be so easy to replicate the experience of China's rise in its entirety. As for Modi, it is impossible to become a figure like Deng Xiaoping who has a long-term impact on history and national development under the elected system in a country with a Muslim population of more than 200 million and a legacy of the caste system.

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