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Valedictory address: Public Policy and Governance in India and China; By D. S. Rajan

C3S Paper No. 0044/2016

Text of Valedictory address delivered by Mr.D.S.Rajan, Distinguished Fellow, Chennai Centre for China Studies, at a Joint Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam and the Chennai Centre for China Studies conference on “Public Policy and Governance in China and India”, held   at Kottayam, Kerala, India, on March 22, 2016. Email: dsrajan@gmail.com)

The Father of the Indian Nation Mahatma Gandhi, whose name this University bears, called for the government’s need to serve Daridara Narayana, in other words, the downtrodden. The founding leader of the People’s Republic of China, Mao Zedong, demanded that the government should serve the people (Wei  Renmin Fuwu). There is thus a convergence in India and China about the purpose of the administration – to benefit the people. In India, the Modi government’s latest budget has been pro-poor. In China, the leader Xi Jinping  is now making an appeal to the ruling Party to be in touch with the masses in order to make policies.

India and China follow two different political systems. The civil society in India is vibrant, whereas the same in China is monitored and controlled by the State, as Dr.K M Seethi said in the two day conference, when several important points on the subject were discussed. As pointed out by Professor V.Suryanarayanan who gave the keynote address in the conference, China is a homogenous one Party ruled State, whereas India is a diverse democracy. In China, the Party controls the State, while in India, there is a multi-party system. Whenever problems appear, Indians seek to address them through change of governments as a result of their voting in elections. In China, there is no sense of elections, as against those being conceived under  free democratic systems. These facts make one to wonder whether there can be a real comparison between India and China.

The public policies of India and PRC have had mixed results – successes and failures.  In India, the policies have been able to contribute to a significant increase in the country’s agricultural strength. India has now become a net exporter of food.  It has also become strong in certain important industrial and service sectors like pharmaceuticals, steel, Information and Technology and space. The demographic dividend factor is advantageous to India. The youth in India now occupy a significant percentage of India’s population. The initiatives of the Modi government- Make in India,  clean country (Swachh Bharat), JAM scheme (Janadhan Yojana, Addhar and Mobile) and  MNREGA,  seems to have a promising outlook.

What India should do to uplift its economy? Firstly, as Rajan Gurukal said in the conference today, crony capitalism tendencies which are de facto anti-people, should be curbed. Secondly, investment to create jobs, housing and advanced infrastructure, should be speeded up.  The priority should especially  be on removing the inequality among the people and among various states within the country.  More financial resources should be allocated in the fields of education and health.

Coming to China, it has to be recognized that there has been rapid economic and social development as the country moved from a planned economic system to a socialist market economic system. The outstanding achievement of the governance in China is the lifting of 500 million people out of poverty. The double digit GDP growth till 2010 contributed to such a development. As pointed out by Dr.Harilal in the conference, as China rises, it is becoming more and more confident as an international player. It has been able to present to the world its  “One Belt and One Road (OBOR) initiative,, which   has potentials to change the economic geography of the region.

China, at the same time, has enormous problem areas to tackle. As pointed out by Rajan Gurukal, State capitalism in China under the one Party rule still needs further evolution, so that the aspirations of the entire society can be met. The present regime of Xi Jinping is exhibiting a conservative tendency, which can be seen in its  priority to stability over the reforms. In this manner, the Party, army and law enforcement machinery are playing a crucial role in the country’s political system. This trend may have negative implications for political reforms and further speeding up of economic reforms.

On the question of Human Rights (for egs. In Tibet and Xinjiang), as pointed out by Ashik Bonofer, the government’s performance is inadequate, though in these two minority regions , the people could be given economic benefits.

Another major area of concern is that still 98.99 people are below the poverty line (with an annual income only around USD $400 per year). The rural-urban and coastal – interior gap also needs to be addressed urgently; so is the case with prevailing environmental questions and external imbalance.

How India and China can learn from each other? With respect to poverty alleviation and infrastructure building, India can definitely learn from China’s experiences. Indian expertise in the IT sector, science and technology and management can be useful for China. China may also gain by studying India’s policy behind media management; Indian media is free while in China, there is close control.

It is said that the 21st century belongs to Asia. This will become true only when India and China gain capabilities to meet the challenges prevailing in the areas of public policy and governance. This conference has been able to throw light on the nature of such challenges and on how the two governments are tackling them  ; this should be takeaway for everybody from the conference.

(D.S.Rajan, Distinguished Fellow, Chennai Centre for China Studies, Chennai, India. Email: dsrajan@gmail.com)

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