Rivals and partners

Going ahead, success of India, China will hinge on urbanisation and energy. They must share lessons

Written by Naina Lal Kidwai | Published:March 18, 2017 12:51 am
modi, india china, china modi, modi beijing, narendra modi, india china trade, latest news, latest india news, indian express File Photo: Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang during the launch of India-China Forum of State & Provincial Leaders at the Great Hall of People in Beijing, May 2015. (Source: PTI)

When Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Beijing in 2015, he observed that China has a strong tradition of learning, citing an old saying: “If you think in terms of a year, plant a seed; if in terms of ten years, plant trees; if in terms of 100 years, teach the people”. India too, he pointed out, shares this core belief that knowledge and learning are supreme. As the China Development Forum kicks off in Beijing this weekend, leaders from both countries should look to each other as partners in collaboration and knowledge-sharing to tackle some of the most urgent challenges of our time.

While China and India may have many substantial differences, the two Asian giants also have much in common. They are the two most populous nations, as well as two of the world’s largest economies. Both countries have made extraordinary strides in growth and poverty reduction. China has harnessed three decades of rapid development to lift more than 700 million citizens out of poverty. India’s GDP rose by almost 9 per cent each year for nearly a decade beginning in 2003, and it has surpassed China as the world’s fastest growing major economy.

These gains, however, have been slowed by high environmental and social costs. Income inequality, for instance, poses a particular challenge: The richest 1 per cent of households in China own a third of the country’s wealth, while in India, they own about 58 per cent. Spreading the benefits of growth to a wider portion of their populations will be key which, in turn, suggests that in future, the quality of growth for both will matter more than solely the quantity. In each country, air pollution from vehicles, power plants and industry leads to more than one million premature deaths per year.

Energy-intensive manufacturing, rapid urbanisation and high energy and consumption demands have made China and India the first and third highest emitters of greenhouse gases respectively. Recently, both have acknowledged that fossil fuels won’t be able to sustain the development they need, signalling important shifts.

In China’s case, its 5-year plan for 2016-2020 indicates its intention to become an “ecological civilisation”, moving away from polluting industries and towards consumption patterns that are less resource-intensive. This year, it will be home to the world’s largest emissions trading scheme as it expands seven regional pilot trading systems to the national level.

India drew on the legacy of Mahatma Gandhi to frame its climate pledge for the landmark Paris climate agreement. Its ambitious goal of achieving 175 GW of total capacity by 2022, and the recent auction of solar power below Rs 3 (4 cents) per kilowatt hour, are extremely promising signs of the direction of travel. India is not only on track to achieve its renewable energy target set for Paris, it will likely do so three years ahead of schedule. While they may be at different stages in development, both countries are poised to transform their economies to deliver high-quality, resilient and inclusive economic growth. Their success will hinge on two key areas, urbanisation and energy.

Urbanisation drives the economy in both countries, but Chinese and Indian cities are experiencing significant growing pains. Dangerous levels of air pollution impose a significant burden on health and GDP and have led to higher citizen awareness and action. Traffic congestion has also become a large-scale challenge — it costs Bangalore an estimated 5 per cent of its economic output and Beijing around 10 per cent. Both countries have introduced initiatives for better urban development.

In China, 36 low-carbon pilot cities have set ambitious targets for carbon intensity reductions. In India, a major push on delivering better urbanisation is underway through the government’s “Smart Cities” programme. Much could be learned by comparing approaches and impacts. Recent analysis of India’s urbanisation used satellite data of night-time lights to compare cities’ urban form with their economic growth. It found that Indian cities that were more compact in 2002 experienced faster economic growth from 2002-2012. Perhaps a similar analysis could be done in China.

At the very least, the lesson can be shared: Better, more sustainable cities present a clear and present economic opportunity. On energy, both China and India have made great strides in advancing renewable energy and energy efficiency, but they are still largely dependent on fossil fuels. Plenty of opportunities exist for collaboration on technology development and deployment.

China, for example, has some of the world’s largest manufacturing plants for solar and wind energy, and is the leading investor in clean energy. India’s renewable energy target, if met, will be almost the same amount as the world’s entire installed solar power in 2014.

Both countries are in the process of reducing fossil fuel subsidies as well. China has begun an internal review and identified nine subsidies to reform. Going forward, it can learn from India’s experiences of deregulating diesel and kerosene prices and operationalising a coal cess, with some of the revenue raised going towards a clean energy fund.

The decisions these two countries make in the next few years will be enormously consequential for the planet and for global prosperity. Just imagine what they could achieve by working together.

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    Archana Das
    Mar 18, 2017 at 6:42 am
    Why didn't you protect TERI girl
    Reply
    1. K
      K SHESHU
      Mar 18, 2017 at 2:07 pm
      Both China india have common problems. If they address them jointly, that may help both.d
      Reply
      1. S
        SK
        Mar 18, 2017 at 10:19 pm
        China is a bunch of crooks that cannot be relied on. It should be destro for India to develop. No neighboring country can be allowed to develop beyond Baratvrata. Brahmvratans in Congress ensured that none of the small neighboring countries develops beyond Bharat. That is very important for our brahmvratans ego. BJP brahmvratans should use deception like our great ancestor Chanakya to occupy China. We should use the offer from US and prepare to wage war(of course with the help of US) against China and destroy her and force her to poverty. Then we brahmin oles can declare India more advanced than China.What do you say brahmin douche bags?
        Reply
        1. A
          ak dev
          Mar 18, 2017 at 11:51 am
          China is enemy of India. Those who support China are also enemy of India.
          Reply
          1. A
            ak dev
            Mar 18, 2017 at 10:58 pm
            You are referring to those ancient times when there were no Muslims, no Commies and no siculars in India. Today China and stan are India's enemy countries.
            Reply
            1. A
              Anoop Abraham
              Mar 18, 2017 at 9:12 am
              Establish direct people-to-people contact between India and China. Settle border disputes and unite to resolve issues common for both of us, in the larger interests of humanity. May such events be a regular phenomenon, and may it move to other cities as well. All the best Modiji......!
              Reply
              1. H
                Harminder Singh
                Mar 19, 2017 at 2:06 am
                First control potion cause smart cities are not going to solve the problem you need people who are earning to live in them then they should be earning enough to support themselves and then if we urbanize everything then who the heck is going to feed them
                Reply
                1. D
                  DILIP
                  Mar 18, 2017 at 4:24 pm
                  By 2055 India will be a bigger ECONOMIC power then China and per capita income will be similar because India will have larger potion and a younger demography. India need not suck up to any one. China will have to learn from India's wisdom and smartness.
                  Reply
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