Dec 2, 2000|
Crowns for India, Cash for China
Well, the world spins on. India gets another crown to prove to the world that our women are, indeed, one of the greatest assets we have as a society. That is 4 Miss World crowns in 6 years: truly a remarkable feat. China, of course, continues to win the Mr. Economy crown with foreign investors throwing money into the country at the rate of US$ 3 billion a month. (India, by contrast, is lucky to get US$ 3 billion in a year!)
|GDP (USD bn)
|Forex Reserves (USD bn)
|Miss World Crowns
|Olympic golds (Sydney)
Which leads me to the overwhelming question: what is more important? Clearly, having 5 crowns is great for our morale and our spirits and does a lot for the sales of cosmetics in this country (as Indian woman will increasingly discard their Indian-ness for a more westernized look – buy Hindustan Lever, P&G?). But, wouldn’t it be fun to have the United States consumers send us US$ 60 billion every year for manufacturing plastic toys, computer keyboards, and T-shirts (with “USA is another banana republic” written on them). Imagine, getting a US$ 60 billion gift every year into the economy (go long the Indian Rupee, buy any company listed on the Indian stock exchanges). Well, that is what the United States gives China in terms of their annual trade deficit as Americans buy more Chinese-made goods than Chinese who buy American-made goods.
Hey, but don’t blame the Chinese for their success. They chose to play a game called, “strengthen the foundation of the economy”, India chose to play a game called, “strengthen the foundation for better make-up”. And the United States continues to play a game called “strengthen the foundation of the big companies” and worships greed and consumption. All the countries are winning at their respective games. India continues to go rudderless, watching its soul shrink-wrapped into packaged yoga and meditation classes for western audiences while external beauty is increasingly glorified at home. China does not care about silly things like human rights, democracy, and Miss World titles and all China really wants is to rule the world economically and militarily. The United States continues to pay lip service to democracy and human rights but acts mostly in the interests of big business and “shareholder value”. It’s a fair world out there: you choose the game you want and try to win it.
This is not to say that Ms. Chopra should not have her fair share of credit for taking India once again onto the global stage (that is a moot point, actually, many of my friends in America did not even know there was a Miss World contest going on). Congratulations to her and to all who helped her achieve success.
But I keep on having this nagging feeling that India is playing the wrong game and continues to sail on a stormy sea without knowing its destination. Sometimes a good tide and a good wind (like OPEC oil money in the 1970’s or the need for English-speaking technology folks in the 1980’s) brings prosperity and hope to the country but, like all good tides and winds, many of those opportunities are lost as there is no one to harness the true potential. And, in the end, one must always ask the key question of survival to really know who your friends are: if China were to ever attack India, would any country ever care and would any country ever send anyone to defend India? If you come up with the name of a country, let me know.
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