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  • ~ By Charmaine Mirza

    Move over, Matahari. Double agents are passé. Today’s world is all about multi-tasking.

    The Silk and Spice crossroads of India, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet, China, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Russia and Central Asia have long been a geopolitical chessboard. But the highest traded commodity isn’t silk or cinnamon – it’s espionage.

    While the caravanserais of yesteryear echoed with many whispered secrets – today’s secrets bouncing off the chatrooms on WeChat or whatsapp. That think-tank seminar might not be a not so routine meeting of minds. Sweet nothings whispered into your ear…or your inbox, might just be a coded message!

    Sounds amazing? Inchin Closer decides to press the pause button and take a walk in the footsteps of a “Spy Who Came In Out of the Tropics” in South Asia.

    Chinese Casanova: The Honeytrap Technique

    Who said romance is dead? The wink of an eye, that je ne sais quoi, or in today’s world, even a little  naughty sexting may have more than one innuendo. That charming young woman who found you “oh so interesting!” Or that debonair young man who swept you off your feet – may not only be pumping you for information, but even trying to recruit you!

    Huawei Hacker: The Mobile Mafia

    Huawei and Xiaomi have recently made headlines for being banned by several countries. India took a very cautious stance and Huawei in particular was placed under a strict security radar. Is that because they pose a massive threat to western mobile phone manufacturers… or is it because their software is designed to spy? On the other hand, Indian and Chinese investors continue to park their funds in each countries’ mobile technology and FinTech platforms, but the trade-offs might be in more than just in the financial realm.

    Thousand Grains: The Jigsaw Puzzle

    The Chinese are known for their “thousand grains of rice” technique – a mind boggling piecing together of seemingly inconsequential information that has been gleaned off a vast and global network of sources. In itself, each kernel of intelligence is meaningless, but when placed in context with one another, they take on new meaning. In India, this approach has been less successful as the Chinese expat diaspora is much smaller.

    Partners in Crime: Pakistan Pals

    One of the biggest drawbacks for Chinese spying on India is that they don’t talk the talk or have the look. So they outsource – and Pakistan has become their spy back office, thanks to the similarity of features and linguistic proficiencies.

    Likewise, the Chinese have made inroads with insurgent groups in the north east of India.

    “In or before 2009, the Naga group was asked by the Chinese to give information on the Dalai Lama’s group in India and the facilities of the Indian army in what India calls its Arunachal Pradesh state and China claims as South Tibet,” as in South China Morning Post

    RAW Deal: Sri Lanka Strategy

    There’s no doubt to anyone that China has made deep historic, economic, trade and political roots in the Emerald Isle. A fact that makes both India and Japan less enchanted and more edgy. There is a segment of those who believe that India’s RAW was a covert stooge in recent Sri Lankan politics that backed the anti-Chinese faction. There’s less doubt that China’s MSS supports miscreants and insurgents on Indian soil. The recent open support that China showed in favour of a known terrorist at the UN Security Council raised India’s eyebrows and it’s ire.

    Dalai Lama Decoys: The Tibetan Turncoat

    Thanks to their refugee status, their physical appearance and ability to negotiate the culture and language, Tibetans are often the target of both countries. In some cases, they have been found to play the game for both sides of the border, with the quasi backing of a “supporting” nation.

    “Pema Tsering was arrested in 2013 in Dharamsala, the Dalai Lama’s base in India. He was an ineffective agent. Tsering had been jailed while serving in the Chinese armed forces and was released by the Chinese when he agreed to spy on the Dalai Lama’s group, but he was then recruited and paid by the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), India’s main intelligence agency,” as reported in the SCMP.

    Filling pockets; money matters

    China has a vast guanxi of spies across the world, but some pundits believe it is interested in corporate espionage that fills it’s companies’ coffers.

    “Much of the intelligence obtained by Chinese spying hits the pockets of foreign companies rather than directly helping China’s defence strategy…” see SCMP.

    Spy support; helping us to INCH Closer

    Ironically, several people in the know believe that covert espionage would actually help keep peace. There is a gaping hole in the lack of cultural exchange and understanding between two neighbours of such size and legacy.

    “Given that the two countries do not have the cultural or political machinery in place to understand each other, espionage and intelligence gathering is vital to ensure that miscalculations do not take place. This has been apparent over the last few years in stand-offs in the Himalaya, as well as top-level suspicions on each side about a variety of subjects including terrorism, covert operations in Sri Lanka and Burma, and the two countries’ nuclear weapons programs,” says the Defense and Security Analysis

    Real Politik: Hard Core Propaganda vs. Crude Pragmatism

    However, the fact of the matter is that both countries have come to the reluctant understanding that it may be better to collaborate than compete. India is leaner and meaner – when it comes to deploying it’s resources, Pakistan takes priority. Covert activities are receiving less muscle power from the government than in previous decades.

    China has several other entities closer to home where it needs to play Big Brother and prioritizes it’s political focus on Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan and the USA, than India.

    “China prefers the glamor of facing up to its Pacific and other maritime rivals such as the US and Japan. India, for its part, does talk a great deal about the China threat, but its resources and expertise are wrapped up in controlling its security threat from Pakistan and the Islamic world. When China and India do try to spy on each other, it is often without the benefit of a long-term focus or understanding.”

    But global espionage circles aren’t all that disparate and there’s often an overlap of technique and even personnel (the recent case of David Headley as a double agent for the DEA and ISI is an excellent example). RAW has recently started recruiting civilians to add to its ranks just like the CIA and MI6, while the MSS still tends to cultivate it’s spies from special schools.

    “The two countries are not friends. They have the largest territorial dispute in the world on their hands, covering an area the size of North Korea, and they have large armies facing each other along 4000 kilometers of frontier. But they also lay claim to the world’s two oldest and richest civilizations, with a rich history of exchange, and now with a combined population of 2.6 billion people and more than a quarter of the world’s economic output. If they cooperated, they could solve many of the world’s problems,” continues the Defense and Security Analysis Journal.

  • This could be the mantra for Diwali or Chinese New Year.

    ~ By Kavita Ogale

    Fire crackers ward off evil in both India and China

    Although they fall more than 6 months apart from each other, the Hindu New Year or Diwali celebrations bear striking resemblance to Chinese New year festivities.

    As agricultural societies, both India and China, perform similar rituals to usher in their new years. A family gathering, spiced with good food, blessings for the new year garnished with new clothes, a clean house and presents for kids, all mixed in with a fiery topping of fireworks to ward off evil and lots of joy and laughter, marks the perfect recipe for both nations to start another agricultural cycle.

    While the reasons behind celebrating both Chinese New Year and Diwali are different, both countries have been following the same practices for many decades.

    The festivities commence with an elaborate house-cleaning regime which is in keeping with the idea of ‘doing away with the old, and bringing in the new’. This is followed by decorating the house with lights, lanterns and lucky words cut out on craft paper to ward off evil, ushering good vibes, long life, peace and prosperity.

    The main theme for all this cleaning and decorating is to have the entire extended family together under one roof. Both Diwali and Chinese New Year, see families converging from far and wide, with generations of one family often sharing the table for a ceremonial dinner occasion.

    Children are pampered with gifts in India and red envelopes stuffed with lucky money in China to bless them with luck, good health and progress. Like in India, most Chinese families stay up late to watch a traditional play, performances of song and dance followed by a colourful display of fireworks to ward off evil before the onset of the new year.

    So big are these celebrations, that economic forecasts are made based on consumer spend during Diwali and Chinese New Year. Sales and discounts lure consumers into buying elaborately decorated gift hampers for family and friends. Purchasing power prior to New Year celebrations therefore become the weather wane pointing towards a bump or slump in the domestic economy for that year.

    India and China in conclusion are not only similar when it comes to traditional ways of celebrating Diwali and Chinese New Year but also bear testimony to the fact that when it comes to contemporary aspects like purchasing behaviour during festivities, consumers in both countries are not unlike each other.

  • ~ By Inchin Closer staff

    Three days after Chinese president Xi Jinping will meet Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, he will fly to the temple town of Mamallapuram, near Chennai to meet Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday.

    Chinese President Xi Jinping will have an informal meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the 11th & 12th of October in Mamallapuram, East India. This will be the 2nd informal meeting between the leaders. The first was held last year in Wuhan, China.  

    The two are scheduled to celebrate 70 years of diplomatic ties between the nations next year marking a momentous growth story of economic opening up, development, political discourse and growth for both nations.

    However, the meeting comes under a dark cloud – the cusp of border tensions in the north of India, southwest China, a slowing economy in both countries and rising social unrests.

    Earlier in August, China and Pakistan held their largest yet air force exercise in China’s Gansu province, the Shaheen-VIII. Official Chinese military media reported the exercise and specially highlighted that the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) had for the first time sent its fourth generation J-16 fighter to help train the Pakistan Air Force take on the Rafale fighter aircraft being acquired by India.

    In response, the Indian Army has recently started her own training at 14,000 ft in Arunachal Pradesh just 100 km from the forward areas along the Line of Actual Control. The expercise, will trial a new technique of offensive, testing the capabilities of the newly conceived Integrated Battle Groups (IBGs).  

    The IBGs are a revised technique of combat wherein the army will not function in separate wings but will bring together all fighting capabilities like infantry, artillery, air defence under one command at the Corp level formations of the Army.

    The exercises which are being carried out in phases are scheduled to complete by October 25th. Sensing a threat so close to the border, China had kept President Xi’s visit in suspense until the last minute.

    On the economic front both China and India are struggling – China under the brunt of her trade war with the US and India under rising inflation, mounting bad debts and an economy in recession on the eve of its festive season.

    Chinese companies are in distress, due to the trade war – having laid off employees and waking up to the realization that China is still very dependant on the US for high-tech. She needs an ally in India’s 1.3 billion consumers, but more worrisome is that Chinese President Xi Jinping’s goal of achieving the ‘China Dream’ by 2021 and ‘Made in China-2025’ within the time-limits declared at the XIXth Party Congress now appear difficult.

    On the other hand, India’s Prime Minister has just come off a thumping publicity campaign in the United States, where he stood on the same stage as US President Trump and their wowed their allegiance to each other.

    Lastly, on the social front, tensions against China are also rising in the south from Hong Kong even while China’s South China disputes haven’t abated. India is also upset over draconian rules being recently passed without a public consensus, rising inflation and unemployment.

    On the whole, the informal talks the two leaders will share on the sandy shores of India’s East coast, will lay the foundation for hopefully better and stronger ties between the two neighbours. While Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi has not yet visited India as is protocol before a summit, the formula is expected to follow that of the Wuhan Summit held between our leaders last year. Prime Minister Modi and President Xi will lay the ground work, carve out the larger picture for the nations; ministers of both nations will subsequently visit each others countries to work out the modalities and implement plans made during these informal discussions.

  • ~ By Kavita Ogale

    How India and China are gearing up for the only war that counts

    The recently held United Nations Climate Action Summit 2019 brought 200 world leaders together on a common stage, urging them to curb their greenhouse gas emissions, reduce their carbon footprint and cut down on the unchecked use of fossil fuels. Building tremendous pressure towards this cause was the worldwide climate strike held between September 20 and 27 that witnessed 7.6 million people being mobilised to generate a global emergency against this manmade disaster. As the largest consumers of coal, India, China and the US have an enormous responsibility to address the climate crisis and exemplify best practices to continue growing their economies without furthering the decline of natural resources.

    Together India and China, the world’s third largest and largest emitters respectively have called upon climate finance amounting to $100 billion per year by 2020 from richer countries to support their move towards emission reduction, green initiatives, advanced technology and a sustainable renewable energy plan.

    Rising temperatures, frequent droughts, flash floods, receding coastlines and food scarcity are just some of the realities that stare us in the face, as per a scientific report by the United Nations in as close as the next two decades. While commitments made in the 2015 Paris Agreement are still to be inked or implemented, temperatures are expected to peak at  over 3 degrees more than existing levels even if 200 nations rise up to the challenge of curbing carbon emission and meet their nationally determined contributions (NDCs).

    Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the UN General Assembly continued to show a steadfast resolution to supporting the fight against global warming as evident in his proposed Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI), that seeks to unite UN bodies, the finance and private sector to strengthen infrastructure against potential climatic catastrophes. The International Solar Alliance (ISA) allies nations between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn to harness solar power while reducing costs borne to fund it. Part of the agreement is to invest a trillion dollars to get solar energy installations up and running by 2030. India is to also move towards a goal of 450-gigawatt (GW) renewable energy.

    As Xi Jinping’s government leads the People’s Republic of China into its 70th year, the second largest economy in the world has significantly alleviated its carbon footprint through economic restructuring, reduction in energy consumption through coal from 74% in 2006 to 58% in 2018, rapid urbanisation, emphasis on energy efficiency and adoption of electric vehicles. Spearheading the need for speed when it comes to reforming its approach to climate change, it has passed over a hundred policies to promote renewable energy like vast wind and solar power, sourcing non-fossil fuels and curbing air pollution. Its biggest challenges now remain restricting carbon dioxide emissions, finding alternatives to emission in other countries through coal exports and aligning its environmental targets with the local and industrial governments.

    While the writing is on the wall as far as acting on their pledges is concerned, Chinese Premier Xi Jinping will have plenty to discuss when he meets his Indian counterpart Modi in India at the second informal Modi-Xi summit after Wuhan from October 11-13. Their joint stance and determination to check the ecological degeneration of the planet will set the tone for the UN COP25 conference in Santiago, Chile in December.

  • ~ By Charmaine Mirza

    Prologue:
    Geopolitics in South Asia just took a twist – but it’s hardly a new one, is it? Revoking the status of Article 370 and “regularizing” the status of Kashmir is like a brutal post-independence hangover that won’t be shaken off, no matter how many placebos it’s fed. Two generations later, how many people even know how or why Article 370 came about?

    It’s important to understand the entire area under contention first, India and Pakistan aren’t the only actors vying for control in Jammu &Kashmir. In reality, the region is split among India, which holds 45%, Pakistan which controls 35%, and China which occupies 20%.

    Sino-Pak Seduction:

    China has built the CPEC (China Pakistan Economic Corridor) highway through the Aksai Chin plateau in the northernmost reaches of Kashmir and Ladakh. India has been protesting for years but dithered to take constructive action.

    Recently, the stakes just got a lot higher now that the CPEC has become a part of China’s New Silk Road for trade. India maintains a stand-offish stance and shuns participating in the New Silk Road, but the fact that it’s hemmed in by it’s own thorny offspring – Pakistan on the one side and Bangladesh on the other – is becoming painful to ignore.

    The Modi Muscle:

    Fast forward to the present. During Narendra Modi’s first prime ministerial run four years ago, Article 370 was a campaign major platform. He guaranteed to assimilate Kashmir and abolish Article 370. But it didn’t happen during his first term. Come the second term in 2019 and his party wins a thumping majority. His erstwhile campaign manager is now Home Minister, and the time has come to deliver on that promise. 

    Kashmir. Cornered:  

    Does enforcing Article 370 really protect India’s (dubious) right over Kashmir? Or will it actually result in India getting cornered into becoming a reluctant partner in China’s New Silk Road?

    In order to understand the geopolitics in the Kashmir Valley, it is vital to understand the realpolitik of the Instrument of Accession to the Republic of India, and the infamous Mountbatten manoeuvre, in context with the creation of Pakistan (which didn’t exist at that time) and the shadow politics and economics of British imperialism in China that preceded that time.

    The Sino-Indo Border Conflict:

    When a ginned-up general during the British Raj at a Shimla retreat drew a wavy line across a map of South Asia and declared that on one side of it lay China and the other India, he unwittingly created what came to be known as the McMahon Line, an irrevocable boundary. The line wavered across the Trans-Himalayan region, all the way over to the Eastern Himalayas. An arbitrary boundary, with little regard for the people of the region or their ethnic roots, the division became a bone of contention between both countries.

    The Mountbatten Manoeuver:

    Kashmir’s accession to India was a chequerboard of political pawns. Facing a massive revolt after he oppressively annexed the independent state of Poonch, Hari Singh, the Maharaja of Kashmir was at his wit’s end. He sought to flee and signed away Kashmir on a “temporary” basis to garner the protection of Nehru (a fellow Kashmiri) and Mountbatten. Mountbatten double-crossed the people of Poonch who had fought for the British Allies in World War II and British troops subdued the rebellion to saving Singh’s skin. In return, Kashmir “acceded” to join the Indian constitution.

    Post-Partum Pakistan:

    In 1947, Pakistan made it’s bloody debut on the global stage. An irrevocable gash between the newly carved out federation of India and the newly born country of West and East Pakistan begins – one that has yet to heal. What is East Pakistan? The erstwhile state of East Bengal that was the original Guinea-pig for Britain’s Divide & Rule Policy.

    Seventy years down the line:

    While Delhi still struggles to lend a hand to it’s far flung territories in the north and north east, and cracks the whip from time to time to reign in insurgency, Beijing is happy to hold out the gilded carrot in the form of aid, infrastructure and security –  but there’s no such thing as a free Chinese dim sum – there’s a payback price tag attached, as both Bangladesh and Pakistan have already discovered.

    India and China played an uneasy game of chess as multiple administrations struggle with balancing out concerns over border security with the need for China’s investment in India’s growing and youthful population. In the meanwhile, China has turned the other cheek and beguiled Pakistan to take it under it’s wing. China is the latest ally for the Pakistani state – even when it’s knowingly harbouring terrorists and renegades within its nuclear program.

    Something needs to give. India needs to take a stand and iron out the Kashmir issue. It’s already blown up in her face – multiple times. Staking it’s claim and voicing it’s desire to amalgamate Kashmir wholly into the Indian republic is a peremptory step, warning it’s neighbours to back off it’s borders. It also flexes it’s muscle with Pakistan who covertly backs jihadi-style terrorism in the valley. It renders itself stronger in the face of a growing security threat from China and is literally a stepping stone towards a tougher stance.

    But while Beijing and Delhi may bicker, the question that remains unanswered is “what do the Kashmiris want?” Perhaps its time we listened to the voices that are echoing from the valley.

  • ~ By Kavita Ogale

    Supersonic internet speeds, digital prowess that can spur industries including transport, utilities and renewables, benefits to the health and education sector, a revolution in Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), communications, security, finance, as well as agriculture – there is very little that goes against the impending 5G rollout in India.

    That it could be driven by China’s telecom giant Huawei, is the only ominous cloud that hangs over India’s 5G dreams.

    In a future that is inevitably geared towards the rapid development of smart cities, the deployment of a massive 5G network is in line with PM Narendra Modi’s tech-empowered India. Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea stand poised to tackle the fiscal deficit amid high-priced spectrum and a heated price bracket, even as the proposed three-month trial, set for this month to test a 5G spectrum in India is fast gaining momentum.

    An insight into the rollout of 5G services in India by the Department of Telecommunications in 2017 reveals an estimated upturn worth over US$1 trillion by 2035.

    With a decision on the inclusion of Huawei pending, Nokia, Ericsson and Samsung are the selected equipment vendors who will lend crucial support in India’s bid to keep up with the global move towards the fifth generation of cellular network and digital advancement.

    Huawei in China is set to do for the 5G telecom market what AT&T and Verizon in the US did for the world with the launch of the 4G wave almost a decade ago. 576 million smartphone users will employ 5G services by 2025, comprising around 40% of the world’s such connections.

    China will enjoy the first mover advantage in deploying the world’s first 5G widespread network as early as next year pegged on government support and a capital investment of US$180 billion towards the cause. This will mean low latency and a 10-15% cheaper cost of commercial adoption of 5G-enabled handsets, applications and services all over the world.

    For India, Keeping China’s largest standalone 5G-enabling network out of the mix is being seen as a bigger risk than the perceived intelligence leak it seems to involve.

    With the US softening its disengagement with Huawei after the recent G20 Summit in Japan and countries like the UK still considering the offer, India is under immense pressure to ease its opposition on the second largest smartphone manufacturer in the world, after Samsung.

    Huawei’s presence in India is a long-established one of nearly two decades with the country housing the firm’s largest R&D centre overseas, set up in Bengaluru in 1999 that employs more than 5000 engineers. The Chinese brand has gained access from the Department of Telecom (DOT) to execute 5G trials in India last year.

    With India being one of the fastest growing telecom markets in the world today, Huawei will try everything to gain a foothold in the country’s 5G ecosystem. New Delhi’s resistance meanwhile, is linked to its previous history of hacking Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. (BSNL) which led to restricted usage of telecom equipment in areas around the country’s borders in 2009, similar hacking was detected in the state-owned telecom in 2014 as well. Huawei has denied these allegations, assuring full co-operation with the Indian government on all network security compliance issues.

    India must independently assess the impact of the Chinese Communist Party’s control over businesses through intelligence agencies and laws before it signs the dotted line. Better cyber security surveillance policies and standards to protect data and networks is imperative and Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad should be looking to close the gaps before he takes an informed decision.

  • Is India “Looking Further East” Beyond China?

    ~ By Charmaine Mirza

    Compete, collaborate and an occasional bout of conflict to spice things up – that sums up the Indo-China relationship rather nicely. But is India’s “Look East” policy taking it to borders beyond China? Apparently so – and it looks like Taiwan and Japan are on it’s immediate radar.

    South Headwinds:

    Taiwan’s New South Policy (NSP) has it actively looking at south and south East Asian trade partners that take it beyond the sphere of Chinese influence. India’s economic crescendo has grabbed it’s attention and Taiwanese investment has already made recent landfall on India’s shores.

    Japanese investment in India is vintage – but is the growing political partnership between India and Japan old wine in a new bottle?

    One of the most aggressive Japanese VCs in India is SoftBank which has made several major investments in the Indian technology sector such as Ola and Flipkart. ReBright Partners, Dentsu Ventures and Mistletoe are just a handful of the other Japanese investors eyeing the Indian startup-scape.

    To counter the Chinese influx in Hambantota on Sri Lanka’s south coast, India and Japan have joined hands to help Sri Lanka construct and finance the new Eastern Container Terminal in Colombo. “The news that India has teamed up with another of Asia’s powerhouse economies to offer Sri Lanka a deal regarding another port – a deal that (unlike Hambantota) pointedly leaves overall control in Sri Lankan hands – has inevitably given rise to speculation that India and Japan are motivated by a desire to push back against Chinese influence, and perhaps even to take on Chinese President Xi Jinping’s signature regional infrastructure initiative the Belt and Road Initiative”, according to the SCMP.

    Techie Trade:

    Taiwan is looking at a 20 percent year on year increase in bilateral trade. Walter Yeh, President & CEO, TAITRA said that there is big scope for trade to expand between India and Taiwan. “There is no limit to the growth potential. The current trade volume between India and Taiwan is to the tune of US$7 billion. There is a lot of market to scale up further. Taiwan’s trade with China alone is US$160 billion,” he told the Economic Times.

    FoxConn has set up a sizeable plants near Chennai and Andhra Pradesh. It has plans to expand in Maharashtra as well. It recently announced that it will be assembling Apple’s latest IPhone in India, which will help Apple to grow it’s India footprint.

    It’s Electrifying!

    Japan and India have a long history of association in the automotive sector. With India making strong moves towards electric vehicles, Japanese companies are gearing up for hybrid and electric vehicles on Indian roads. Basides Honda, Nissan is set to make an aggressive India entry with it’s electric vehicles, starting with the Leaf. Taiwan, on the other hand, is eyeing India’s rapidly growing solar sector – which depends heavily on Chinese technology and equipment at the moment.  Taiwanese firms are also bringing their Indian partners into global value chains. Moreover, Taiwan can add value in areas that India is prioritizing, for example, with its technology and techniques in the ICT, healthcare, agriculture, and food processing sectors.

    While Japan already has it’s foot in the door in several of these sectors ( in some cases, it has even exited certain ventures that have gone sour such as the Tata Docomo deal in telecom and Ranbaxy-Daiichi Sankyo deal in healthcare) Taiwan is still testing the waters.

    But whichever way the wind blows, there’s no doubt that China better watch out — India is definitely looking further east towards new horizons.

  • ~ By Kavita Ogale

    For the latest list of 24 Confucius Institutes that closed in the US – click here

    The currently frigid US state policy to resist any Chinese government-powered trade has led to the rapid shuttering of 24 China-funded Confucius Institutes across American universities. Meanwhile, even as the Indian government monitors the growth of these institutes warily in cities across the country, China seems to be keen to close the gaps in cultural and language exchange with its neighbour by offering scholarships to Indian students to promote the study of Mandarin. Inchin Closer believes that the need to safeguard power internally and uphold indigenous values and traditions should not deprive countries like India and the US of maintaining their history of multicultural harmony.

    Rising dissent and investigative probing of the Confucius Institutes across universities in America has led to shutting down of at least ten of its centres within this year itself and more are set to follow. Citing reasons like lack of transparency and political propaganda to promote a pro-Beijing narrative, efforts continue to thwart any visage of supposed ‘intelligence leakage’ embedded within home turf from a potent political and economic rival. The Chinese government’s attempt to control academic discourse on its history through these institutes as part of its soft power strategy may be unauthenticated so far. In spite of this, US universities that hosted 40 percent of the Confucius Institutes since the Institute’s inception in 2004 seem to have no choice but to comply with the US government’s directive. Contributing to the Cold War ideology of keeping China at bay is set to affect the traffic of Chinese students on campus that amounts to 400,000 at present and millions in funding.

    If the culling of Chinese learning is being enforced as a response to growing mistrust and need to protect American interest, America’s Modern Language Association records a fall of over 9% in foreign language learning across universities between 2013 to 2016. To sustain seamless collaborations in the global economy, the need for foreign language skill in the US has multiplied in the last five years with nine out of ten employees demanding it as a pre-requisite. Spanish, Chinese and Japanese are the most sought-after languages professionally highlighting the need to incorporate foreign language learning as instrumental in enhancing job opportunities. As the second largest economy after its own, the US would be wise not to undermine the need for Chinese language learning.

    Similarly, India which will share 50 percent of the world’s GDP with China by 2050, cannot ignore the need to cultivate Mandarin. Although China has been advocating the establishment of Confucius Institutes in India since 2012, there are only three functional centres in Mumbai, Vellore and Kolkata so far. A conscious resistance against succumbing to the soft power penetration of Chinese influence and espionage through educational institutions has led to India looking critically and cautiously at these Institutes.

    While other world language and cultural centres like Alliance Francaise, British Council or Goethe Institute do not elicit such reservations, China’s communist nature, its ambitious geopolitical clout and aggressive foreign policy are ensuring India administers its own guidelines for the running of China’s state-sponsored cultural centres within its borders.

    With the US coming down heavily on trading relations with China, President Xi Jinping will be looking to secure better partnerships with India in coming days. Chinese Government Scholarships are enabling Indian students from Mumbai University to head to China to pursue language studies in Mandarin and it will be interesting to see if this trend catches on in the rest of the country.

  • ~ By Charmaine Mirza

    What does the Year of the Pig hold for India-China bilateral trade?

    Will the pig stay at home, eat roast beef or have none?

    Inchin Closer takes a look.

    Image credit: Economic Times

    MAKING INROADS:

    Move over Maruti Suzuki. China’s big boys in the automotive industry are about to muscle in on your turf. While Geely Motors is channelling itself through luxury brands like Daimler Benz and Volvo, SAIC Motorcorp is setting up it’s own plant in Halol to manufacture cars under the MG label.

    With Electric Vehicles driving us into the future, China’s prowess in Lithium and battery technology gives it a major advantage. Other Chinese companies are worming their way in with ancillaries like motor parts and safety equipment. China is also rolling out in the tyre space. According to the Economic Times: “Of the 115 BIS licenses given for selling tyres in India, 36 are to Chinese companies.”

    MINI MONEY:

    Micro finance is a new watchword in India as companies extend small lines of credit and loans to lower income groups in tier II and tier III cities to help them overcome the cash-flow hurdle before each month’s pay cheque. Jade Value, the investment arm of Chinese finance firm, CashBus, recently invested in Olly Credit. China has long-term vision – Indian youth’s consumer spending is on the rise and an available line of credit helps to increase their spending power. LoanTap, another financial firm has raised a round of funding from Shunwei Capital, a Chinese VC, to offer loans and overdraft facilities to working professionals in India.

    ONLINE MARKETPLACE:

    The big boys like Alibaba, Tencent and CTrip have already cast their net into the e-commerce ocean and the next wave is gearing up to wash onto India’s digital shores. India’s start-up culture is a hotbed of investment for Chinese VCs.

    “Although some of the Chinese giants have already tested the water, it is expected that in the coming years, SMEs of China are also likely to explore growth opportunities in India, especially in the digital sectors, which is primarily controlled by domestic companies’ or MNCs in China,” says a report from KPMG. “Several firms including Qiming Ventures, Morningside Ventures, CDH Investments, 01VC and Orchid Asia Group are already looking to buy stakes in startups in India since the beginning of 2018.” the report added.

    5G GRIDLOCK:

    Chinese telecom and technology manufacturers have gone all out to be price competitive and create easy financing solutions for their Indian telecom providers — including government carrier BSNL! Their tech prowess is higher, allowing them to offer customized solutions which European and American manufacturers are unable to do. However, profitability continues to remain a big issue. Companies like Huawei and ZTE hope that introduce 5G at competitive price points will give rise to a whole host of new technology and industries that can supply incremental revenues.

    CHINESE CONSTRUCT:

    Made By China may soon be the tag on a lot of Indian infrastructure. Heavy equipment manufacturer, SANY, has established a factory at Chakan, just outside of Pune and aims to have sales worth 1.1 billion USD from India by 2020. Renewable energy infrastructure is another huge area of growth for the Chinese in India. 90% of solar power infrastructure and a large amount of wind power infrastructure is dominated by Chinese companies. Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat have been the immediate beneficiaries as companies like Trina, Longian, CETC, TBEA and TWBB (to name a few) have set up manufacturing centers in these states. Hunan based CRRC has won big in the railways sector, to supply metro railway coaches for several cities and has set up a joint venture manufacturing unit in Haryana.

    Can’t live with them, can’t live without them. That’s the bottom line where Chinese foreign direct investment in India is concerned. It looks like this little pig is going to cry “Wei Wei Wei” all the way home.

  • ~ By Kavita Ogale

    UPDATE: Amazon has stepped up its investment in India and pumped in US$402,920,000 (Rs 2,800 crore) on 7th June.

    Amazon may be pulling out of China’s US$1.3 trillion e-commerce market but the game’s not up for the Seattle-based behemoth as it focuses on cross-border shopping with more and more Chinese seeking to buy branded and luxury products. E-commerce regulations in China favour this upcoming trend.

    Cross-border shopping has gained relevance recently due to Chinese consumers’ growing discontent with local products whose quality and safety may be circumspect. The value of this market is rising by 15% year on year, reinforcing the fact that customers in China are willing to invest their faith in brands that promise value for money. Buying directly from the manufacturers may often prove cheaper for consumers seeking cost-effective imported deals. The assurance of buying original goods is often given more emphasis over a possible shipping delay.  Amazon will be looking to cash in on this social media-driven trend of shopping for brands that are coveted internationally.

    Across the border, Amazon India grapples with rigid e-commerce regulations, stiff competition from arch rival Flipkart which boasts revenues of US$3.8 billion and the looming entry of Indian billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s e-commerce giant. The collaboration between Reliance Retail and data arm Reliance Jio Infocomm will massively increase data access to millions in rural India pushing products exclusively from Reliance Retail to a million+ captive audience hooked on his data network. That this deal has the new government’s blessing, will only aide Mr. Ambani in squashing his rivals and giving Amazon India a real run for its  money.

    Amazon India nonetheless, still has some ammunition left in its arsenal. Bezos‘ strategy aims at upping its e-commerce to US$5 billion by reaching another 100 million consumers in 2023. The plan includes tapping on the resources of local shopkeepers, making available a lower version of its mobile app that consumes less memory to appeal to users of cheaper mobile phones, boosting its rural merchant count while offering great discounts and a wide array of products. With so much intensive competition within the sector, India’s thriving e-commerce pie is expected to be worth US$200 billion by 2028 (as per a Morgan Stanley estimate).

    Amazon’s experience in both China and India unfolds an interesting insight into our retail worlds. Although both nations have a billion plus consumers, their e-commerce trajectories have been quite different. With China’s population ageing fast and India’s median age being 27.9 years in 2018, Chinese and Indian consumers although often clubbed alike, are different by nurture.

    With the trade war between China and the US worsening, China will look to India to offload some of its goods. China might have an advantage, by having a more mature understanding of the e-commerce sector, but will have to play her foreign policy cards right to strike a deal in India, especially with a strong domestic incumbent. Then again, Beijing is familiar with squashing monopolies.

  • ~ By Charmaine Mirza

    China’s planned One Belt One Road Initiative

    With general elections taking place across India, a new government is already in the making. In a two part series, Inchin Closer takes a look on what the new Indian administration should focus on with China, her largest neighbour and trading partner. From natural resources to national security, curbing terrorism to regional policy, are there ways for Asia’s largest nations to work with one another?

    In the first part of this series, we take a look at the geopolitics of South Asia and the role that these two giants play.

    MARITIME SECURITY &  POLICY:

    China’s Maritime Strategy 2015 clearly states it’s intent to increase it’s presence in the Indian Ocean. Karachi and Gwadar in Pakistan have already been named as key naval bases and China’s growing ports in Sri Lanka like Hanbantota, do nothing to ease the tension between the two navies.

    China has recently moved nuclear armed submarines into the Indian Ocean, creating a series of “pressure points” in the South Asian seas, which is directly at odds with India’s “Act East” policy that aims to strengthen India’s presence right up to the West Pacific. China aims to increase it’s naval power exponentially – to about 350 surface warships and 100 submarines by 2030-35. India has also made heavy investments in increasing it’s naval capacity. Will the pumped up maritime muscle of these two Asian giants serve to keep each other in check?

    REGIONAL TERRORISM:

    India achieved a major diplomatic breakthrough this week when China finally backed down at the UN Security Council, and agreed to vote in favour of Masood Azhar, the leader of Pakistan-based terrorist outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), designating Azhar as a global terrorist. China’s covert support for Azhar at the UNSC has been a major sore point in relations between India and China.

    After Azhar was released to Pakistani authorities by India during a hostage exchange, he founded the JeM, which subsequently took responsibility for several major terrorism attacks in the region – most recently Pulwama in Kashmir. The exact reasons why China protected Azhar are opaque, but some strategists feel that it could be a retaliation to India’s protection of the Dalai Lama, whom the Chinese view as a dangerous separatist leader.

    But is it time for China and India to collaborate more closely with one another on military intelligence to prevent terrorist attacks in the region? A potential point of collaboration could be technology – as the smart city wave sweeps over India, perhaps China and India could work together to implement better security systems including security camera tracking systems, artificial intelligence, face scanning, biometrics and citizen data. But on the other hand, if they are instrumental in building such systems, China could also manipulate them for their own use.

    While leveraging each other’s intelligence for regional harmony would be ideal, there is still a long way to go before India, China and Pakistan reach a happy medium.

    WATER SECURITY:

    The elexir of life, India and China’s dependance on water continues to increase even as more water bodies get polluted and fewer fresh water resources are available to a growing population.

    The Lake Mansarover’s watershed is a much sought after and fought after fresh water supply between the neighbors. While both China and India’s river systems are aplenty water is becoming a precious resource and needs to be managed effectively between the nations especially since many of India’s rivers origniate from China.

    Cooperating on sharing water resources between the two nations would be a monumental breakthrough for the entire region’s peace and stability, however Inchin Closer feels this would take a lot more time and understanding between the nations.

    THE CHINA BELT & ROAD INITIATIVE:

    The second China Belt & Road summit took place recently, but India continues to decline to participate, despite China’s insistent overtures. The reasons are many – not least of which was a diplomatic stand off, thanks to China’s veto on Azhar being designated a global terrorist. But security is not the only concern for participants of the BRI. Economics is another. Many of them feel it’s like a debt-trap – wherein China’s infrastructure investment comes at a high political and financial cost, which many of them are unable to repay. In fact, China needs to be cognizant of the economic impact of unpaid debt from the BRI on it’s own economy.

    The New Silk Road overland route connects China all the way to Europe (see map above). Italy is the latest European country to sign on. But participants have already voiced concerns over unwieldy logistics and red-tape, particularly in the Central Asian region.

    India is a wary onlooker, even as it’s regional neighbours – Sri Lanka and Pakistan – have clambered onto the bandwagon. Despite the trade advantages, several political strategists feel that it is not yet to India’s benefit to participate. However, in the long run, if the BRI is optimised and used to the mutual benefit of both countries, both India and China could benefit from it enormously – making South Asia the super power it once was. Power struggles in South Asia are nothing new, but it’s time for a fresh approach. With a new administration sweeping in to drive India forward into 2020, it would be fortuitous to have China as an ally rather than an enemy.

  • ~ By Kavita Ogale

    543 seats. Over 10 lakh polling stations. The Lok Sabha election 2019 has gathered steam and is keeping the entire country on its toes as 900 million Indians vote in the largest election in the world. Amidst all the action is the inimitable voice of one man who claims he has the power of an alchemist to turn India into a superpower. As Prime Minister Narendra Modi aims to keep term with an encore to the last elections he fought, Inchin Closer reflects on how he matches the powerful vision and ambitions of an equally dynamic leader across the border, his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.

    Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi

    Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s wish of seeing India as a superpower is not very different from Chinese President Xi Jinping’s promise of fulfilling the ‘China dream’. Both leaders strive for global recognition but while retaining a significant and strong nationalistic foundation. They both play to the galleries and have always tried to reach out to the masses, gaining from the populist mileage they create in their wake. Both Xi and Modi came to power around the same time. Xi took over the reigns of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in 2013 and has been architecting its destiny at an unprecedented pace, fiercely protective about the nation’s sovereignty and undeterred in his zeal for economic supremacy across the world. Modi was elected Prime Minister in 2014, largely supported by the antagonism against the then existing Congress party rule and fuelled by a strategically sound front put up by the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP).

    Wearing their absolute loyalty to their respective parties as a badge of honour, they are both not known to mince words when it comes to critiquing rivals who may try to overshadow their vision. Both have also been extremely diligent when it comes to forging close ties with neighbours and fostering a durable foreign policy that hinges on mutual co-operation. Modi is only two countries short of Xi’s score of visiting 39 countries in a span of merely two years, underlining the need for a revival of faith in their countries’ international stature.

    Of course, one must admit that Xi has a relatively easier ground to operate on, in a nation that is unified and bound by the common desire for social empowerment. As a representative of a country that has multi-faceted complexities and is distinctly diverse in religion, language and community within its very borders, Modi is still dependent on the vote of his people dictated by the edicts of the world’s largest democracy. To tide through the bureaucratic mess and the opposition’s chaos in a country like India takes both endurance and tact.

    President Xi is poised at the epicentre of control in a socialist state that gives him immense freedom in taking decisive steps when it comes to international trade and investment. This has manifested in several nations across Southeast and Central Asia to Africa becoming ready allies to China’s resource-rich promise of infrastructural growth. Modi on the other hand, must navigate through a circuitous path to channelise his moves, beset by an unyielding and highly resistant system of slow-moving institutions and processes.

    As chairman of the Central Military Commission, Xi exerts firm control over the technological development and rapid modernisation of China’s weaponry system. His revolutionisation of the military, airforce and naval artillery is aimed at self-defense, with an eye on spreading its influence in the South China Sea, the Pacific and the Indian Ocean.

    Modi’s military moves although relatively restrained in comparison have been coldly calculated and promptly deployed to counter terrorism, winning him plaudits more than brickbats. While some consider the successive surgical strikes after the Uri and Pulwama tragedies as a fitting military reply to terrorism- it has also labelled him an ‘autocrat’ who is seeking self-aggrandisement at the cost of impaling the democracy.

    It is clear that Modi will win the elections only through consensus of the majority unlike President Xi’s one-party monopoly. His emphasis will remain on staying true to his resolute and steadfast reputation of taking India from being a frequently undermined developing nation to the third largest economy after China and the US by 2030. His clarion call for national integration, flourishing commerce and solidarity with countries beyond one’s own mirror Xi’s ruling principles and are most likely to see him through as one of India’s unrivalled ambassadors of favourable geopolitical and domestic progress.

  • ~ By Nazia Vasi; as published in China India Dialogue

    Andhadhun or 调音师 in Mandarin has grossed $ 31.57 mn in China within 2 weeks of its release.

    Fueled by cash flows and expanding channels of communication, China and India are awakening to a third round of bilateral brotherhood, focused on cultural exchange.

    I was living in Shanghai and working as the Indian head of an Asian tax and legal consultancy in 2008 at a time when cultural exchange between China and India left plenty to be desired. Indian art and cultural performances touring China’s major cities attracted mostly Indian spectators, who enjoyed wallowing in song and dance from their mother- land because of homesickness. Chinese people tended to be rare at these cultural events.

    Many reasons could be blamed for the phenomenon— awareness of India in China was low at the time. Most Chinese didn’t know India as the software superpower it is today. Its economy was gently growing 3.9 percent annually. Most Chinese hadn’t traveled to India, were not particularly interested in it and hadn’t heard too much about it. India was a poorer, slower and smaller neighbor and mostly inconsequential to China, which had a GDP growth of 9.7 percent.

    However, in 2017, an influx of investments led by Alibaba and Tencent who announced or closed deals valued or nearing US$2 billion, heralded a renewed Chinese interest in India’s flourishing soft power.

    China and India have had a rich tradition of exchange dating back centuries. The first wave was led by Xuanzang’s journey to the West and the spread of Buddhism across China. The second round was fueled by business, initially through the trade of cotton and tea and eventually the more lucrative opium. Today, fueled by cash flows and expanding channels of communication, China and India
    are re-awakening to a third round of bilateral brotherhood focused on cultural exchange.

    FILM AND TELEVISION COOPERATION

    Aamir Khan’s movie 3 Idiots grossed US$3 million in China just a few years ago, helping cement India’s image as an enchanting, colorful nation capable of fascinating the Chinese.

    Today, film cooperation between India and China is booming. Inchin Closer, a China-India language and cultural consultancy I founded in 2010, is in the thick of translating an animation script for a 5D film that was written in and will be produced in India but shown in 5D theaters in China. This project is making the most of India’s film production skills and China’s infrastructural abilities.

    Also in the works is a pilot for a Chinese TV series, exclusively created, scripted and produced in India solely for the Chinese audience. Considering that China is home to the greatest number of screens world- wide, the content consumed by the country’s story-hungry consumers has skyrocketed, and media producers in Beijing are bending over backwards to meet the rising demand. Unable to keep up with the demand themselves, domestic Chinese producers are commissioning Indian production companies to make TV shows specially for the Chinese audience. A trend never imagined before, China is now looking to India for her rich storytelling, film- making and production abilities to create world-class content that can be seamlessly sold to audiences from Shanghai to Kashgar.

    Concurrently, Chinese content is also being created for Indian eyes. Translated from Chinese to Hindi is a Beijing-based TV series of historical Chinese stories that will be subtitled and dubbed for air on Indian networks. Stories from the Qin Dynasty will be shown on Indian TVs soon, highlighting ancient traditions and customs—similarities our two nations share. Indian audiences will witness the parallels that Indian and Chinese historical dramas, mythology and epics share.

    The secret to making Bollywood movies so spicy is creative chaos, an element that China’s films seem to lack. India’s film industry functions in a mad sync that only its insiders understand. Until China’s film industry can harness its creative juices and pour out unbridled passion, storytelling will remain India’s strength.

    The cultural similarities between China and India have proved a big advantage for the latter when creating content for the mobile-screen-toting, binge-watching Chinese viewer. Modern twists on
    love stories and mythological epics are especially high in demand, and just what Indian production houses—skilled in the genre— are being commissioned to write by Chinese media companies. Beijing is now looking to Mumbai, the capital of India’s film industry, to learn from and accelerate its storytelling and film production capabilities.

    Recently, a high-level government delegation led by Mr. Feijin Du, member of the Standing Committee of the CPC Beijing Municipal Committee, visited Mumbai and New Delhi. Delegates met film producers, the head of the Mumbai Film Festival and government officials to work out plans to host bilateral film festivals. The agenda was clearly designed to facilitate learning the secrets of Bollywood.

    5D  films and TV series are not the only carriers of the cultural collision between China and India. Interest in both nations’ literature has also swelled. A translation of Amar Chitra Katha’s graphic novel on Mahatma Gandhi is now in the works. The novel has already been translated into Chinese and will soon be available at bookstores and for online downloads, enabling Chinese readers to understand how India fought for independence against the British with non-violent means.

    MIXED MARRIAGE

    Alongside the media, other technology has enabled Indians and the Chinese to traverse cultural barriers. Many have fallen in love, married and moved to the other country, adapting to family values, traditions and a new way of life. Xiao Ming is one example: Now a mother of three children, she married Gautam, a software engineer from Bangalore, India’s Silicon Valley, nine years ago. Today, she earns a lucrative living translating documents between Chinese and English, the languages of business for China and India.

    Xiao Ming is a member of a constantly growing WeChat group of Chinese wives who are married to Indian men. The group, with almost 200 members, was started about six years ago when a few women came together to support each other in a foreign land. Although few have met each other, the group is an extremely strong support network to help the newly married settle into India’s chaotic cities. The most discussed topic in the group is food. The women help each other recreate dishes from home in Indian cities where Chinese ingredients aren’t easily accessible. One woman even figured out how to make tofu from scratch since the Indian paneer (cottage cheese) never came close in taste or texture. Other topics of conversation range from how to deal with in-laws, experiences growing up as single children in China, and raising kids in a multicultural home.

    Many enjoyed boisterous Indian weddings. Marriages in India, like in Bollywood movies, are colorful and peppered with lots of song and dance. However, traditional Hindu weddings involve the couple circumambulating around a fire to the tempo of a priest chanting ‘mantras’ or blessings for the couple. Inchin Closer was recently called to translate these mantras for a Chinese bride’s family who had travelled from Hunan Province for their daughter’s marriage to Prashant. The Chinese side of the wedding party was enthusiastic about understanding the meaning behind the customs and rituals.

    SINGING IN CHINESE

    Jankee, a professional Indian singer, was recently invited to sing a Chinese song at a traditional Indian wedding. The groom’s family had some important Chinese clients at his wedding and wanted to impress them. So Jankee was enlisted to learn and sing Mandarin pop songs to impress and entertain the Chinese clientele at the wedding.

    Because Mandarin remains China’s primary language, producers must make content in Mandarin. However, because of its vital role in bridging relations in business, the number of Indians interested in learning Mandarin has skyrocketed. Businesspeople, traders, merchants, entrepreneurs and professionals all want to learn the language so they can seamlessly do business in China. Speaking Mandarin gives them a big advantage. They can communicate easily with clients, which establishes a channel of trust and camaraderie, which translates into better prices and profits in India.

    China is also drawing in Indian youth with opportunities to experience the country and culture first- hand through programs such as those offering attractive scholarships to study Mandarin. In 2010, approximately 80 Indian students were offered scholarships to study Mandarin and by 2018, the number had almost doubled to 150. Studying, living and working in China not only offers Indians firsthand experience in the country, but also helps them make friends and build a lasting relationship with their neighbor.

    Through these various channels, strengthening of cultural relations between peoples of the world’s two most populated nations is on the upswing. This third wave of cultural camaraderie is fueling stronger relations between China and India. And through the intermingling of the threads that bind our people, our nations will weave an ornate quilt of love, respect and a deeper understanding of each other.

  • How English is a language of exchange and empowerment for both nations

    By Kavita Ogale

    When Chinese blogger Hua Qianfang recently commented on Weibo that English learning is ‘a trash skill for most Chinese that wastes countless energy and money’ he met with stiff resistance. Not surprisingly though – A major chunk of both China and India’s burgeoning youth population aspire for better economic growth and opportunities, social status and global exposure, and is  their English golden ticket to a more prosperous future,

    The English education market in China grew from RMB 123.6 billion (USD 18.4 billion) to RMB 489.7 billion (USD 72.9 billion) between 2016 to 2017, and is estimated to grow to RMB 947 billion (USD 141 billion) this year, according to a report by by Daxue Consulting a China focused market research company.

    Spurred by this high demand, the need for English teachers in China is at an all-time high. Both offline and online training beyond schools is being sought after, whether in the form of brick and mortar institutions or apps. The online English language market in China itself has roped in an investment of RMB 1.8 billion (USD 0.2 billion) in 2017. Over 500,000 Chinese students enrolled in online English training companies like VIPKid.

    India is in the lead with an English speaking population of 125 million[; which gives her an advantage especially in International service oriented jobs such as call centers. China’s English speaking population is estimated at 10 million.

    The language that went up a hill and came down a mountain

    India, of course, has its British colonial past and statesman Thomas Babington Macaulay to be thanked for English making inroads in the education system in the 19th century (around 1830), in order to ease British bureaucratic processes.

    While the foray of English entry in China dates back to the 17th century, it was only in 1862 that the country adopted a scholastic approach to teaching the language. However, the institution of the People’s Republic led to seismic changes in foreign language education, where learning English was aborted during the Cultural Revolution.  The death of Mao Zedong ushered in a renaissance for the English language owing to Deng Xiaoping’s Open Door policy, building the foundation of contemporary China’s political and economic voice in years to come. This is the reason why English remains India’s lingua franca for government and business, while Mandarin remains China’s language  

    The writing is on the wall. Global powers through the centuries have been represented by countries that are driven by English as their spoken and written form of communication. When 20% of the world’s population speaks one tongue which is also the most sought after foreign language being learnt across the globe, it certainly cannot be ignored.

    Nationalistic naysayers may deride the elitist westernisation that English represents for China and advocate keeping its spread in check. Inchin Closer, however, believes that as both India and China take competitive strides to answer the call of industry, environment, trade, travel and education on the world stage, English will continue to resonate as the go-to language to counter the communication gaps of its masses and classes.


  • ~By Charmaine Mirza

    SourceL FinTech in China: An Introduction

    ‘Whoever is first in the field and awaits the coming of the enemy will be fresh for the fight; whoever is second in the field and has to hasten to battle will arrive exhausted’ – Sun Tzu, the Art of War.

    WHO’S GOT GAME?

    Truer words couldn’t be spoken when it comes to FinTech, China and India are choreographing an intricate two-step routine, with China taking the lead. China is spreading her roots in the Indian Subcontinent by seeding investment and sharing technology platforms with India’s burgeoning consumer economy.

    BYPASSING THE BANK:

    Giving people the power over their own finances, online retailers like Flipkart who are receiving funding from Chinese firms, aim to become NBFC’s (Non-banking financial corporations) in their own right, so that they can directly underwrite credit for their customers, rather than farm it out to a bank.

    The China-Eurasian Economic Cooperation Fund (CEECF), a state-backed Chinese fund has also recently backed Indian cab aggregator, Ola, which is also pursuing the NBFC route.

    In  functionality too, having seen success in-house, Chinese companies are also betting on the “EMI” (equated month instalment) and micro loan route in India, which is rapidly gaining popularity among the youth making purchases more affordable.

    Smartphone technology is driving digital payments as well as digital lending in India – and this is like offering honey to a bear. Chinese micro-lending company Fenqile and smartphone maker Xiaomi have already swarmed in and are making an investment in Bengaluru-based student lending platform KrazyBee. Xiaomi has also made another strategic investment in digital lending startup – ZestMoney, according to the Economic Times.

    PEOPLE POWER:

    The cross-pollination between China and India in fintech is also spreading to top tier talent. WeCash has recently hired several Indians onto its team, including Puneet Agarwal and Daman Soni from Mobikwik and Nitin Agarwal from Incred Finance – even as Tencent eyes an investment into Mobikwik. And we already know that some of the big names in Indian industry have already parked a strategic investment in Chinese companies, such as Ratan Tata’s stake in Xiaomi.

    SMART CITY REVOLUTION:

    However, the biggest implementation of fintech in India is yet to come with the launch of the first wave of smart-cities, and we have no doubt that Chinese technology will certainly be playing it’s part in making India’s cities “smarter.”

    Even though India and China may have the occasional bout of disputes over their geographical borders, the virtual borders are already being wiped out by technology collaborations. That’s why we feel that India and China aren’t competing with one another, but are in fact leveraging their mutual interests in the FinTech space for mutual benefit.

  • ~ By Charmaine Mirza

    Did you… just buy your airline tickets online instead of the family travel agent? Shop for your groceries on a website vs. a “kiraana dukaan”? If so, you’re already part of a fintech revolution that is sweeping Asia off it’s feet.

    In the race for adoption, China leads the pack. But India is fast catching up. Is this something that China needs to be concerned about? Not really – because when you just paid your highway toll in India using PayTM, did you realize that it’s powered by the Chinese tech powerhouse – Alibaba? Or that your last Zomato order could take place thanks to Ant Financial’s investment in them?

    China is a global fintech leader, but as the government started to cash in on the FinTech boom and spike the interest rates for home-grown companies in China, several of them have opted to look beyond the Middle Kingdom to grow their business and achieve global leadership in the FinTech space.

    BORDER CROSSING:

    The Chinese administration has clamped down recently and imposed several regulations and restrictions on financial service companies and their customers. While some people believe that this is not necessarily a bad thing, it could be the harbinger of a slow down in growth within China itself. Therefore, Ant, Tencent and others are looking at other parts of Asia to grow their business. This is precisely where India zooms into focus.

    “Alipay Singapore – the Singapore branch of Ant Financial, and Zomato have sealed a US$210 investment deal, just six months after the world’s largest fintech company made a US$150 million investment in the South Asian food delivery firm. The latest investment will be for a 10% stake in Zomato, bringing the Indian company’s valuation to around US$2 billion.

    The deal comes just as reports that Chinese internet giant Tencent plans to invest as much as US$700 million in Swiggy, Zomato’s main competitor in the Indian market, after previously accepting investments from Tencent-backed Meituan-Dianping.”

    NUMBER CRUNCH:

    According to a recent report by JP Morgan, fintech firms in India have only succeeded in catering to 23 percent of the affluent section of the Indian economy while a huge portion – roughly a 600-million-strong population mostly of lower- and middle-income groups still remains untapped.  Furthermore, the fintech landscape is lead by market place lending at around 29-30%. Payments and remittances come next at around 25-27%.  A plethora of categories including savings and investments, borrowings and financial planning services yet need to break into the Indian market, leaving the potential for growth not only in volume but also categories.

    The potential for growth in India, especially Bharat (rural India) is huge – and Chinese fintech companies are ready to cash in, literally. Isn’t it ironic? CEO Eric Jing says that Ant Financial got its name because ‘ants are small and its service was for the “little guys.”’ What these companies are counting on is volume led growth.

    WeCash, one of the largest players in the lending space in China has already set up shop in India, and entered with a consumer-lending product in partnership with banks. They aim to source borrowers for banks. Their goal: to target the masses – the vast number of people across various regions of the country who have remained financially underserved by traditional brick and mortar institutions.

    Is there a future? Inchin Closer certainly thinks so. In a world where currency is moving towards a paperless model, FinTech has a far more significant role to play and the Chinese have the advantage. Follow us as we bring you further insights into the future of Chinese fintech investments in India and the reasons why.

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  • image (2)前几天,我还提到如果你初到印度一定会因为时常在大街上遇到热闹欢腾的人群而感到好奇和新鲜。这不,我却忘了告诉你除了节日和婚礼外,这次你可能是撞上了在印度也是频繁发生的:The big “E”- Elections (选举)。 印度是个多党派的国家,除了国家级政党,各地区还有大大小小的地方政党。信不信由你,由于各地选举时间交错,所以你在游历印度时说不定您就不知不觉碰上了为选举造势的各类活动:小到村县级政府选举,再到市政府州政府选举,大到像几月前才刚刚结束的全国大选,可谓百选不厌! 如果这两天你身在马哈拉施特拉邦(马邦),恭喜你,你有机会一睹印度选民的热情和对民主的疯狂了。几大政党的荧幕大战(电视推广,政绩辩论,施政方向等), 各选区的集会演讲,车队沿街广播宣传,大街小巷挂满的标语彩旗,真是各出奇招掳获民心。 10月15日,当我在写这篇博文的时候,马哈拉施特拉邦这个印度西部最大州的人民终于迎来了最终的公投。从早上7点一直持续到晚上6点,选民们可以自行到住家附近的指定地点投票,根据自己的意愿选出执政党组建新的政府。“民主”一向是印度人民最引以为豪的,而且印度也是世界公认的最大并充满活力的民主国家,来自社会各阶层和种姓的人都有权投票选择。为了体现对公投的支持,大多数企业公司都会提早几个小时下班,让员工可以有时间去投票。有些企业更是放假一天可见大家对此的重视。 Nike Darwin Goedkoop Read more

  • navratri如果你经常往来于印度或是长期定居于此,那么随时随地都能撞见欢庆的人流对已习惯快节奏生活的你而言仍充满好奇,也会放慢脚步一探究竟。一年里大多数的时间印度人好像都在庆祝,而狂欢的缘由无非是婚礼或是节日。灯火通明,绚丽服饰,花团锦簇,当然还有不可或缺的舞蹈,都成了横跨印度不同省邦及宗教信徒欢度节日的象征。 要是这几天你还在纳闷为什么到处张灯结彩,歌舞升平,哈哈,那是因为我们能歌善舞的印度朋友们又在庆祝了-NavRatri (Nava-9 & Ratri-夜)。这次可是要接连狂欢9个晚上!在当今还是男权至上的印度社会,就算是他们供奉的神灵也已男性为主,九夜节却是其中少有的专属于女神们的节日,因此也称之为“圣母节”。在这十天九夜里,每天人们都会参加某位女神的礼拜,歌颂她的母性力量并祈求她的保佑。 Nike Air Max 90 CamouflagDame 这段时间是一年中普通印度劳动妇女最为享受的一段时光。摆脱繁重的家务,在工作一天后可以穿上她们的节日盛装为她们所敬重的女神们载歌载舞直至通宵达旦。也许一生中大部分时间她们只是扮演着配角,可是这九夜她们确是真正的主角。这个节日不仅象征着女性力量和杰出贡献,多少也是她们在心灵上寻求女权平等的一种慰籍。 Read more

  • rajghat你曾经看到过一位总理如此自豪地清扫着大马路?刚刚走下访美归来的飞机,莫迪总理再一次让整个印度震惊了。这次却是拿着扫把站在了大众的面前! 每年的10月2日,对所有的印度人来说都是一个特殊的日子就是伟大民族领袖“圣雄甘地”的诞辰纪念日。这是个公共假日,全国上下都会通过各种形式来缅怀这位为印度独立民主奋斗了一身的杰出人物。可是很少有人知道他毕生都渴望将印度变成一个整洁的国家。然而就在甘地诞辰145周年之际,新任总理莫迪在他的纪念仪式上向全国人民公开倡导了一个全新的运动-“Swachh Bharat Abhiyan”意为“干净的印度”。 nike air max 2017 dames 旨在用五年的时间-也就是到2019年圣雄甘地诞辰150周年时完成并实现他的遗愿。 那么莫迪总理是如何以身作则,首当其冲地诠释这次运动的呢?首先,他做出承诺保证保持环境的清洁并投入时间打扫。自己要做到“我不乱丢垃圾,也不允许别人随地乱扔。”他强调本次运动不涉及政治,只单纯出于“我们”对国家的热爱。他已经邀请了9个人加入并要求他们到公共场所做清扫后再指定9个人延续这个活动。他坚信“印度会变整洁,印度人民可以做到!” 一经媒体的报导整个印度沸腾了,社会各界名流无论是宝来坞的明星大腕还是板球界的高手精英都纷纷响应他的挑战,向这位拿起扫把的总理学习。乍一看倒是有点像印度版的“冰桶挑战”。他还在自己的社交网站上放上了一张经他清扫后的大街的照片并语重心长地对大众说:“改变大家的既定思维是需要时间的。这是一项艰巨的任务。但是我们有五年时间去实现。” 最后,他说到“这个运动不能只靠莫迪,莫迪只是12亿人中的一个… 这应该是所有人民的责任。”那到底有多少人会受到他的感染真正地养成爱清洁的好习惯呢? 最为长期在印度居住的外国人,我看到了在莫迪当上总理后印度民众对政府态度的改变。他们对莫迪和他的政府寄予了厚望。人民是乐观的,充满信心的。不得不承认这是一项非常有意义的活动,莫迪总理也与时共进知道用什么方式可以带动全民的斗志。他在国人心中的魅力也不能小觑。 oakley femme pas cher 可是中国俗话说“三代才出一个贵族。”那短短的五年能改变民众的观念吗?整洁干净的印度不再是梦?圣雄甘地的遗愿能实现?让我们为印度祝福吧,时间会证明一切! 我会支持莫迪,中印咫尺也支持,那你能?别忘了和我们分享你的看法。

  • Chinese companies in India’s financial hub of Mumbai are gradually coming together to form what will be an Association of Chinese Companies. Similar to New Delhi’s Chindia Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which represents over 110 Chinese firms in India, the association will lobby for common rights within India, will cooperate with Indian associations and will share best practices honed from across sectors, over years. Reflecting the Indian Association in Shanghai, a group of like minded individuals and companies who gather for business and social events, in China’s financial capital, the Chinese associations are only open to membership by Chinese companies.

    In developing economies where freight is fraught and torrid trade disputes stretch on tirelessly, it becomes important for companies from one nation to club together to understand their host nation better and gain a sense of brotherhood in an alien land. While our bilateral trade might be Inchin towards the US$100 billion mark sooner than expected, there is yet so much we need to understand about each other. Our governments might shake hands in the capital and yet point the barrel of a gun on our borders. Our markets are keen to explode into each other, take advantage of our synergies and make the most of our billion plus populations, yet creating a body of commonness is key.

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  • china-indiaAfter concrete conversations and pristine promises to open markets further to each other during Premier Li Keqiang’s visit to New Delhi and Mumbai last week, India and China this week landed on softer territory with cultural exchanges, a meeting of the minds and philosophical ponderings. The two nations will jointly hold a conference entitled From Tagore to Mo Yan: The Universality of the One at Tongji University in Shanghai.

    Presided over by Padma Bhushan Tan Chung, the defacto authority on Sino-Indian Culture, and disciple of Rabindranath Tagore, who influenced 20th century China, the two day conference will discuss the arts, literature and changing thought processes of the East. Highlighting the Oriental civilization,  participants will speak on the Wests views on Asia, Chinese Culture going global and the relevance of Tagore today. Drawing parallels between Tagore and Mo Yan’s literature and subsequent impact, the conference will throw light on the relation between the two countries – classics and literature.

    Building on softer relations between China and India, the two nations have come a long way – from Yoga and Tai Chi to bollywood in China and Chinese cuisine flourishing in India. Further aroused by the Indian hospitality industry aggressively entering the Chinese tourism space, language and culture exchanges have enlarged. Although there are five time more Indians travelling to China than Chinese in India, the number of flights and passengers has see a steady upward curve in the past few years. The Indians have always been curious of their neighbours behind the bamboo curtain and of late an increasing number of Chinese too have a piqued interest in their southern soulmates. Nobody can deny the innate connections between our two peoples, and thats exactly what both governments are pinning their hopes on too. A better understanding between Indians and Chinese will not only lead to greater business ties and add value for both countries but will also elevate Asia and the bilateral nexus we share.

    Lets strengthen our soft issues to avoid a hard landing.

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