Those who have been stunned by developments in China in various fields, not the least in sports as evidenced at the Beijing Olympics held recently, may be shocked at a report on the country that appeared earlier this year in reputed American journal called Mother Jones (January/February 2008). Unquestionably Shanghai has beaten all advanced American and European cities hollow by its architectural splendour and China, surely, should be proud of its achievement. But what is behind all the hype?
One explanation is that China wants to catch up on all developed countries to make up for all its past historical humiliations they heaped on it. That is a matter of pride and self-respect which is perfectly understandable. But reading Mother Jones one wonders where China is heading. The question may well be asked: Is the report one-sided? Even if it is, the facts enumerated deserve looking into for us to ponder over. Here is a brief list: China'sroads are some of the world'smost dangerous. A quarter of a million people die on them each year, six times as many as in the United States. China leads the world in coal consumption, with 2.5 billion tons in 2006, using more than what the US, Russia and India combined do.
Apparently a fourth of the country is now desert since more three fourths of its forests have disappeared and acid rain falling on a third of China'slandmass is tainting soil, water and food. Four fifths of the lengths of China'srivers, too, are polluted for fish and half the population, between 600 to 700 million, drinks water contaminated with animals and human waste. Into Asia'slargest river, the Yangtze, the nation annually dumps a billion tons of untreated water. Scientists fear the river will die within a few years. Whole forests are succumbing to China'sconsumption of 45 billion pairs of chopsticks per year. From where does China get its wood? From Russia, for instance, where, according to reports, an estimated half of all logging is illegal. And from Indonesia which was condemned by the Environmental Assessment Agency as ?perhaps the largest and most destructive single trade route of stolen timber in the world?. These are facts brought out by the American journal.
The cutting down of trees in China itself was apparently the reason why, in 1988, the middle reaches of the Yangtze river flooded the areas around killing 3,000 people, destroying five million homes and engulfing 52 million acres of land, leaving some 14 million homeless. At this point one may well ask: could deforestation around the Kosi river in Bihar have been the reason for the terrifying floods that occurred there this year? Is Ganga any better than Yangtze? If we point one finger at China, perhaps we should point two fingers at ourselves. We cannot afford to fool around with the environment.
People in China have no freedom. They have plainly to take orders whether as once they originated from Mao Tsetung or now as are issued by the bosses currently in power. Do readers remember the time when Mao ordered some 90 million peasants to make steel in their own backyard with the use of smelters? The ?Backyard Furnace? campaign became the talk of the world; the fuel to heat the smelters came from trees which were ruthlessly cut down. In the end the ?steel? produced turned unusable. That was a major disaster. In the process China lost one tenth of its forests. China is apparently moving towards becoming the most powerful nation in the world with a vengeance, wishing to contain India in the process. Consider what Mother Jones reports on China'sindustrial development: among the world's193 nations (registered with the United Nations), China is now first in the production of coal, steel, cement and ten kinds of metals; it produces half of the world'scameras and nearly a third of its TVs and, by 2015, may produce the most cars. That way it would have put behind not only European countries like Germany, France, Russia and Britain but also the great United States as well, which is now in great financial turmoil.
Presently China boasts of factories that can accommodate 200,000 workers and towns that make sixty per cent of the world'sbuttons and half the world's silk ties. In India Tatas had to enter into tortuous negotiations with Mamata Banerjee over the Nano Project in West Bengal only to ultimately shift it to Gujarat. We are a democracy. Which is better: to have a slow but steady economic growth, respecting the lives and concerns of the people of every class, and practice democracy, or a fantastic growth, lapping up vast world resources of every kind, contributing to environmental disaster and ultimately passing the world to ecological disaster?
China is obviously trying to get back at the developed world to tell the white world that China can beat them at everything, whether in sports, technology, aeronautics or whatever, and wouldn'tmind the cost. It is as if Beijing is telling the development countries: ?Never again treat us as an insignificant nation. Whatever you can do, we can do better both in terms of quality and quantity.? The Beijing Olympics was meant to convey exactly that message. And it was done with utter ruthlessness. Can India take a lead out of China'sbook? Not as long as India is a democracy. And not as long as we have ?secularist? governments devoid of self-respect and secular intellectuals who have no sense of national greatness and are constantly bent on running down our cultural and intellectual past.
A nation without pride cannot expect to make any progress; one has to work not just for money and high salaries but with a larger ambition to make India great, which would entail a certain amount of sacrifice. When we are so ashamed of our ?Hindu? past and tie ourselves into secular knots, our progress to that extent is tinted. But obviously we would rather remain at the bottom of the ladder, kicked, cheated, insulted and despised than assert ourselves as a people with a great and honourable past. The French journalist Francois Gautier said it all when he wrote that it is because our children are taught that ?being a Hindu is a curse? that has encouraged terrorists to have their way and SIMI to make atrocious remarks about Hinduism. We deserve it. A nation that has no respect for its past can hardly expect to make a splash in the future.
India presently has no vision. We are a people afraid of our own shadow. India is hesitant to be great but China is unstoppable. Before India takes any decision it wants to know what the rest of the world would think of its actions China couldn'tcare less. That is why China is great and India continuous to struggle. There is here a lesson to be learnt. Jawaharlal Nehru once said: ?Success often comes to those who dare and act; it seldom comes to the timid?. He made a point there.
Obviously we would rather remain at the bottom of the ladder, kicked, cheated, insulted and despised than assert ourselves as a people with a great and honourable past. The French journalist Francois Gautier said it all when he wrote that it is because our children are taught that ?being a Hindu is a curse? that has encouraged terrorists to have their way and SIMI to make atrocious remarks about Hinduism. We deserve it. A nation that has no respect for its past can hardly expect to make a splash in the future.