Adonis Diaries

Archive for April 28th, 2009

China and India Empires: Same and Different (April 28, 2009)

Since antiquity, China and India formed vast empires.  They were the wealthiest, the most populous, and the most creative in almost all fields of industries such porcelain, gun powder, paper, vaccines, compass, rudder, the zero, philosophy, art of war and you name it. 

Europe relied on the silk, spices, perfume, and luxury items imported from China and India through Persia, Turkey and Egypt. The Great Wall of China is the only human made construction that can be seen from space.  Three centuries before Portugal put to sea its galleons to circumnavigate oceans, China had fleet of ships 3 times bigger than the biggest that Spain constructed. 


Every society has gone through the same historical development and experienced with feudal systems, caste systems, monarchies, and oligarchies.  The difference between China and India are:

First, China had gone through the harrowing communist period but it managed to crush the priesthood or sacerdotal castes.  In India the priesthood castes are as powerful as ever.  There are millions of this “untouchables” caste, the lowest caste of the five structured by the Brahma and Hinduism religions.  The “untouchables” are consecrated by religion to remain untouchables. 

Gandhi confronted that humiliating condition head on, but no other modern Indian government or political parties dared to revisit this abomination.  In fact, the caste system prevalent in the Middle East was imported from India by the Ottoman Empire. 

For over two centuries, Europe was closed to the Ottoman Empire as Turkey was militarily expanding in Europe.  The Ottoman Empire had to rely almost exclusively on India for administrative organization, culture, and trades. 

Among the good things, we also received the worst that India could export; it is so enduring that the Middle East societies cannot shake off the plight of caste system that is exacerbated by close nit community structure.

Second, China has the mentality of becoming a superpower at par with the USA.  Everything that China is doing is at a gigantic measure such as the biggest dam with all the subsequent mass transfer of people, traditions, and customs.  The focus on urban centers and industrialization is diverting water from agriculture, the source of its initial prosperity and social stability.  A 7-month dry season in the northern part, the wheat basket region, is sending shivers of forthcoming famine. 

The rivers in China are heavily polluted and the western diseases from water and land pollution are harvesting thousands of young lives. Over 25, millions were forced to vacate the urban centers to their remote villages after this financial crisis. 

India is progressing at a steadier and less drastic strategy and linking the country with new route infrastructures.  The cheaper car produced by India are supposedly to be sold in India for only $2,000.

Third, China is investing heavily on energy resources and lands oversea, particularly in Africa.  India prefers to cajole the USA and signed a less favorable deal for importing light nuclear rods from the USA and satellites from Israel, though it could produce these advanced technological items.

Fact is that the British Empire held on to India, for 3 centuries, because it realized that the vast Indian population is the hardest working and was adding all the values to the wealth of the British Empire.

During the Soviet Union period of 1917 to 1989, China and India followed the precepts of communism and tight control over private ownership and enterprises.  These two nations experienced famine on large scales, and suffered all kinds of miseries and humiliation. 

As soon as the Berlin Wall fell and the capitalist system dominated world economy and finance. And China and India transformed their development accordingly.

In China, tiny Deng Xiaoping ordered restitution of collectivity lands to private cultivators and authorized selling part of the production.  Then the private agriculturists were permitted to select what they wanted to plant and production tripled.  Small enterprises and private shops were granted to be formed and in no time 22 millions small industries were hiring 135 millions employees. In China, small modifications in freedom of choice, and small increases in production mean gigantic increases in internal production.

In India of 1991, the finance minister Manmohan Singh relaxed certain restrictions on doing business. There were no needs for previous permit for each transaction, for importation, for investment, and for increase in production. The Indian economy took off at great strides.

Currently, the GDP of China has surpassed France and Germany and closing up with Japan.  Shanghai alone has more high rises than New York and Los Angeles combined or 5,000 high-rises.  It is no secret that ten years after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, China and India were viewed as the main enemies to the USA and Europe. 

China and India are two powers that had the technologies, the know-how, and the resources in raw materials and human potential to rival the economies of western nations.  It is no secret that the hurried frenzy of Bush Junior to invading Iraq unilaterally had the main purpose of dominating oil reserves and blackmailing China and India.

Amine Maaluf wrote in “A World Adrift” that Colin Powel told ex-President Bush Junior “You break it; you own it.  You invade Iraq then you will end up with the responsibility of caring for 25 million Iraqis”  Bush Junior didn’t own it alone; the whole world is sharing the price of a financial and economic meltdown. 

In the mean times, China expanded its oil exploration in Africa and built a major pipeline to Russia and Central Asia States.

India built many nuclear reactors and pipelines and are not as affected by energy shortages as Europe that relies on Russia, Algeria, and Libya for gas.

One of the major problems that the world is facing is that in addition to the 50 millions middle class families in the USA and Europe, over 150 millions middle class families in China and India can now afford and demand the same consumer items that the USA and European middle classes enjoyed for a century.   

They want their cars, their washing machines, their refrigerators and all the commodities that any human desire to own when he can afford it; it is their right and no one can obstruct or make these new middle class desist from their hard earned rights.

If just 50 million families in the USA and Europe almost exhausted earth minerals and energies. then how humanity is going to satisfy the demands of 200 millions families?

“Ain Wardet” (Village) by Jabbour Douweihy (Book Review, April 26, 2009)


Note: I like a novel to be told chronologically; Ain Wardet was not; it is in Arabic and was translated into French.  I could not read it in one trait but as I finished the third of the story then I knew that I had to review it.  A general event becomes a particular one; a common person takes the dimension of an individual. I started taking notes knowing that the review will be in chronological order, no matter what: the reader of review needs clarity before he gets excited to venture on the original manuscript.


It is the family of Al Baz (Hawk) that immigrated to Egypt and settled in Alexandria; it made a fortune and got bankrupt as the price of cotton plummeted.  The grand parent Francis Senior remembered that he had a country of origin and relative in Lebanon and they returned home.  Francis Sr. built a large house in the mountainside village of Ain Wardet (Rose Eye or Rose Fountain) and close to the Capital Beirut.

The Al Baz carried on the traditions and celebrations of Alexandria for many years and clung to friends from Alexandria.  They could speak Egyptian Arabic slang but wrote in French.

The first generation of Al Baz is of Francis Jr., Massoud, and Nouhad.  Massoud was simple minded and pissed anywhere outside when the urge demanded.  Massoud predicted his death to the hour and removed all the patron saints pictures in his room before he died; for example, Saint Joseph disliked people who never used the proper tools.

Nouhad was a tiny spinster that played the matriarch and she maintained the household and the family “status and honor”.  At the end of any serious disagreement with the family she would declare “If I am a burden then I am going up to pack and leave”.  Nouhad was a prude girl and never admitted that girls should entice men for marriage because either you fall in love or you don’t.  She ended suffering from Alzheimer and moved to a retirement community in Bhorsaf.

Francis was led by the director of the internal security to believe that he would be candidate to the parliament on the list of the President of the Republic.  In return, Francis had to accommodate an Arab tribe in his basement that moved from Syria and were given Lebanese citizenship.  Consequently, Francis would have the authority to buy and sell over 200 heads of the eligible tribal members at election times.  As the patriarch of the tribe told it the tribe was located in Mohammara near Homs.  One morning an infant stopped suckling and cried pointing westward. The tribe took down the tents and moved for months, guided by the baby’s finger, until they reached a mountain side in Lebanon; then, suddenly the baby stopped crying and his smile showed his only two front teeth.

Francis married Julia of Beirut.  Julia was the only kid in her family and educated at a French nuns school; the French Admiral would arrive with his fleet as her dad was in Jerusalem trading gold.  Nouhad had no liking for Julia and saw to it that no furniture should be displaced.  Francis had Joujou, Rida, and Sara.

Joujou was over 35 when he married Marguerite, a very young Austrian girl studying archeological artifacts in Lebanon during summer.  Rida was a master chess player, aloof, and strong headed; at the age of 10 Rida demanded his own chair at the dining table; he wrote and posted the dishes that he didn’t like, and the family did its best not to antagonize Rida.  Sara married a Moslem contractor working in Kuwait.

By the time the civil war in Lebanon started the family was already financially broke but the house and the land could not be sold; a special contract called “Progeny inheritance” with clauses that postulated that only the third generation could dispose of the property or any function made of it.  This clause prevented Marguerite to carry on her dream project of transforming the first floor as European restaurant.

Rida fell in love head over toe with Nadia and they began reading the 7 volumes of Marcel Proust’s “Reminiscence of lost times”.  I will skip this enchanting tale of love story.  Nadia died of car accident and Rida decided to isolate in his room.  The war trauma generated whiteness in Rida’s fingers that progressed to cover his face.  I will skip the corny tale of Rida encounter of the Arab “Femme Fatal” who was abused by her brothers for gain.  I have already published a chapter of the war events under the title “Siege Attitudes…”  Good reading.




April 2009

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