Understanding China and India

Security Implications for the United States and the World

by Rollie Lal

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Key to developing national security strategy is figuring out what other countries want. What are their national interests? How do they perceive them? How do they project them onto the world stage? Understanding all of this helps us to predict their behavior. In developing a national security strategy for Asia, the United States must take into account the desires of two emerging giants of the 21st century: China and India. We would be mistaken, Lal argues, if we lumped China and India together in one Asian policy, because these two countries differ greatly from one another. Based on over 120 in-depth interviews with government officials and scholars in Beijing and New Delhi, the author's research yields some surprising news about the differences between China and India. Chinese leaders define their national interest as preservation of the state and territorial unity, whereas Indian decision makers define their national interests in relation to forces beyond India, such as the forces of globalization and their geopolitical status. One factor that accounts for these differences, among the many explored in this book, is the influence of one-party rule in China and parliamentary democracy in India. Another important finding is that China and India are unlikely to pursue hostility with each other. The U.S. approach to Asia will need to take these differences into account.

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