Pradip Baijal is an IAS officer who retired as the Chief of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India. He has held several administrative offices in the Ministry of Finance and Industries at the state level. However, he is most famous for his role as the Disinvestment secretary in 1999. He was involved in the disinvestment of various Government Companies such as BP, VSNL, Maruti etc. He is credited for the sale of Maruti which resulted in a Rs. 1000 crore control premium for the Government.
Baijal, in his timely book ‘Containing the China Onslaught’, uncovers various truths about China and its efforts at global dominance. He stresses on the importance of incumbent countries putting up a united front against China.
On why he studied China
“At TRAI, we made some reforms that propelled us from number 122 in the world to number 2. This did not sit well with China and they started coming over to my office to invite me to China. They were interested in how we were doing reforms. And I felt that I owed it to the country to study them as well.”
On the similarities/dissimilarities between China and India’s liberalization
China got liberalized in 1981, while India only went through the process in 1991. However, Pradip has a very different take. He thinks China’s liberalization was very controlled. “The Politburo controls everything in China – the Government, the party. What China had was a very well-designed reform, but under the supervision of the Politburo.” Russia had also undergone similar reforms under Gorbachov but the process destroyed Russia. China had seeked the support of the US to conduct those reforms. However, seeing the outcome in Russia, Nixon and Mao, in a secretly-kept meeting (now declassified), decided to let the political setup remain as is in China.
India on the other hand, was already a democratic country with stock markets and entrepreneurs, and so did not have to face problems like Russia or China. Pradip says that the process of liberalization had actually begun since 1981 even in India – such as the decontrolling of the cement sector. “There were gradual reforms in bits and pieces, but the Government got courage to bring in the reforms properly only in 1991.”
“China managed to manage 7 Presidents of the US”
“The Chinese are famous for all their philosophical books, and most of them are around deception – how to make a fool of the other person.”
Nixon and all subsequent presidents thought that they would acquire the huge Chinese market. “But the Chinese employed their Judo trick on all Presidents. The trick was that I don’t give you my markets, I give you my space and facilities for production. And my labour is very efficient and totally regimented. I can produce any amounts in my units. So American Companies came to China and those companies captured the world market because the products were very cheap. This was actually a disadvantage for the US because the manufacturing capacity in their country and the rest of the world collapsed.”
Pradip says this is how China fooled 7 presidents who thought they were working in the interest of the US but were actually abetting the rise of China. He thinks in many economic terms, China is now actually ahead of the US. “The first President to understand what was happening was Trump.”
What did China do differently?
India achieved independence in 1947, Mao’s revolution was in 1948. Both India and China were similar sized economies with India doing better initially. Today India is struggling to reach 3 trillion, while China is at 13 trillion. Pradip says that the number one reason is China’s regimented labour. “Their labour is like a machine.”
The Tiananmen Agitation in China was a demand for freedom. Deng Xiaoping thought that he would lose the advantage of higher productivity if the movement went on. At that time China had a 10-year rule and Deng would have to step down as Prime Minister. He then assumed the role of Defence Minister. He crushed the Tiananmen Agitation completely. The Government reported deaths of 200 people while almost 30,000 people were said to have died. The enraged army revolted and the Politburo sacrificed Deng. Deng outsmarted them by approaching Bush and was saved by a letter from the US President. However, during these times, the reforms taking place in China led to higher incomes and low unemployment. Deng had created a solid workforce which was extremely efficient.
Today, China still reaps the benefits of its well-managed people. Read Baijal’s fascinating and well-researched book to fully understand the dynamics of China’s agenda of world dominance.