Want to Get Your Mind Off US Politics?

I’m in Northeast India for several weeks, and must confess it is nice to not be in the US. The election run-up there continues to wallow in ever deeper levels of disgusting accusations and revelations. But it is not really possible to escape it in Asia (or anywhere). In Egypt last week as well as here in India I continue to hear people discuss it with passion and fervor, spouting the latest Internet rumor they’ve read.

If you’re interested to think about something other than Clinton or Trump, read on. Being here in NE India and not far from China has made me reflect again (as I often do) on relations between the two largest nations on earth. An article came out this week here in India quoting a Chinese scholar from the prestigious Peking University in Beijing. In it he makes some very intriguing comments. 

He writes: “As a responsible great nation, China should also have positive and effective strategies toward India. China should further deepen its relationship with India” and he goes on to list several fields where there should be cooperation. One can be cynical of course, noting that this scholar is to visit Goa in India for a conference soon. And it is hard to trust remarks like this in geo-political relations. He goes on to call the present state of Sino-Indian relations as “warm economics and cold politics”. Probably not that far from the truth. 

But when you look at the ever-increasing flights between the two, the growing cultural exchanges, and yes the developing cooperation in many fields, it is harder to be a cynic. Something does seem to be happening, changing. This Chinese scholar argues that the two Asian giants have many common interests, and need to have a more united front against the West. 

That will not happen anytime soon, if ever. India and China will remain rivals far into the 21st century. Yet as I’ve written before, that relationship will be perhaps the most important geo-political dynamic as we move into the next 50 years.

This relationship will far outlive the Trump and Clinton nightmare. Thank goodness. Yet just as thinking into the future changes the way we look at the present, so does thinking about the past. I’m presently reading the third volume in the Ibis trilogy by Amitav Ghosh, Flood of Fire. If you haven’t discovered Ghosh’s novels, you need to start! This trilogy is set in India and China of the 1830’s/1840’s, highlighting the period when British colonial exploitation included the growing of opium in India and selling it to China. 

In that period both nations were under British colonial dominance, yet still maintained fascinating relational networks. At one point in the book, Ghosh has his characters speculating what would have happened if India and China had been able to join together to defeat the British. Something at least to wonder about!

So there are lots of things to do to take your mind off the election in the United States. Think about the future of the world. Think about India and China, over 2 billion people combined. Read a good book by Amitav Ghosh.

Only three weeks to go.

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