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Expert Lays Out Governing Challenges Facing India and China

Contact: Patrick Verel
(212) 636-7790
verel@fordham.edu


William J. Antholis, Ph.D., managing director of The Brookings Institution
Photo by Chris Taggart
One out of every three people on the planet live in India and China, and the way they govern themselves has major implications for the rest of the planet, a scholar told an audience at Fordham on Sept. 13.

“Establishing and maintaining unified political systems across a continent and across multiple belief systems requires a tricky, if not dark magic.  [In the United States] our leaders often fail to pull the rabbit out of the hat, and our whole becomes less than the sum of its parts,” said William J. Antholis, Ph.D., speaking at the Lincoln Center campus.

“Only occasionally do we reach a new a consensus.  More often than not, we resort to darker arts, forging compromises or forcing odd coalitions.”

Antholis, the managing director of The Brookings Institution, used his talk, “Fractious Federations:  Why China’s Provinces and India’s States Matter,” to provide a glimpse of the kinds of people who run India’s states and China’s provinces, what they believe and value, and how they view global issues.

Although few American leaders could identify the leaders of the individual provinces in both countries, Antholis said that many of the provinces are so large, they would be considered countries in their own right.

Just as California and Alabama have differing priorities from each other and the federal government, so too is there a tug of war between local and national authorities in India and China.

“Neither country has a fully federal system that gives “sovereign” powers to constituent units,” he said. “More than America or Europe, China and India give their central governments final authority over local officials.

But in neither country is the central government completely in charge, Antholis added.

“In both India’s multiparty democracy and China’s one-party “people’s republic”, a multi-colored map is emerging, involving territorial units, as well as multiple conceptions of the good life that need to be bridged.”

If we want to seriously address issues such as global climate change, poverty and nuclear proliferation, it’s important to pay attention to the differences between Guangdong and Chongqing in China and Gujarat and Bihar in India, he said.

In China, for example, Antholis noted that Guangdong province’s party secretary Wang Yang has embraced nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and independent labor organizations.

At the same time, 1,000 miles inland, politician Bo Xilai’s “Chongqing [province] model” emphasizes shared prosperity and communitarian values, socialist egalitarianism, and a benevolent state. 

“For Bo’s supporters, an unbridled private sector, NGOs, peasants’ rights, and independent courts are too much pluribus, too soon,” he said.

As a democracy, India is very different from China, Antholis said. But like China it lacks a key ingredient that has helped bind Americans to a common cause: pluralism.

The Indian states of Gujarat and Bihar, for example, have made major strides in the last years. But while Bihar’s chief minister Nitish Kumar has been praised for a “growth with justice” agenda, Narendra Modi, the Hindu chief minister of Gujarat, has been denied a visa to visit the United States because of concerns that he has not sufficiently protected religious minorities in Gujarat -- particularly during riots in 2002 that killed over 1,000 Muslims.

Either of these men have the potential to rise to lead India, so local politics in the four great continental unions—China, India, the United States and Europe—should be taken more seriously as a global matter.

 “The capitals of these four continental unions must reassess how to manage their diverse states and provinces.  Union systems learn slowly how to forge compromise and consensus,” Antholis said.

“By observing and cooperating with one another, there may be opportunities to learn how to do this more effectively.  The foundation for that, in turn, may be learning to respect the fractiousness that is at the heart of federalism itself.”

Founded in 1841, Fordham is the Jesuit University of New York, offering exceptional education distinguished by the Jesuit tradition to more than 15,100 students in its four undergraduate colleges and its six graduate and professional schools. It has residential campuses in the Bronx and Manhattan, a campus in West Harrison, N.Y., the Louis Calder Center Biological Field Station in Armonk, N.Y., and the London Centre at Heythrop College in the United Kingdom.
09/12

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