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Parametres and Benchmarks


Shri Prakash

INDIA AND CHINA IN THE COLONIAL WORLD
Edited by Madhavi Thampi
Social Science Press, New Delhi, 2005, pp. 256, Rs. 675.00

VOLUME XXX NUMBER 7 July 2006

The book being reviewed is a collection of revised papers by well known China experts presented at an international seminar in New Delhi in November 2000. However, the issues taken up are of a long term historical interest and hence the various papers retain a freshness of insight as well as information and are well worth reading seriously. They provide important parameters and benchmarks for comparing the relations between India and China when they were both fighting in their own ways to liberate themselves from the yoke of colonial powers and in contemporary times when they are pursuing their own developmental strategies to become economically developed countries with modernized social systems. The central value of such a volume is the comparative analysis it can enable us to do of Sino-Indian relations at a time when peoples were fighting for national liberation and now when they are engaged in devising strategies to grapple with the processes of globalization in a beneficial and reciprocal manner. Madhavi Thampi endorses such a view in her Introduction.   This review does not propose to undertake a taxonomic survey chapter or theme wise. It rather first of all proposes to delineate the underlying issues of common concern and those which distinguish the Chinese from the Indian experience of colonialism. One of the major points underlined by Asiya Siddiqi and Chen Zhilong who have analysed the triangular trade between India, China and Britain as well as the multilateral trade originating from Shanghai is that its cornerstone was the military rule and political control exercised by the colonial powers over India and China and not any commercial comparative advantage. As Asiya Siddiqi points out the Dutch perhaps were the first to resort to inter-Asian trade importing products from one eastern market to another in order to generate trading capital. They used to import textiles from India to Indonesia in order to buy their cargoes of spices by suing the profits derived from the price differential derived from buying cheap and selling dear (p. 23).   The English East India Company followed a similar strategy to buy tea from China by selling opium procured in India forcefully as land revenue in kind or bought at monopoly prices by moneylenders who could be made to sell at low prices to the ruling power. Given the prevalence of drought and famines in some parts of China, opium provided addictive relief. The East India Company estimated ...


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