Indian democracy loses to Chinese efficiency - by 160 votes

May 13th, 2009 - 4:40 pm ICT by IANS  

By Dipankar De Sarkar
London, May 13 (IANS) As millions of Indians prepared for Wednesday’s last round of elections, India’s much-lauded democracy was given a thorough drubbing by China’s efficiency-driven one-party system.

The result of some hard-headed voting at the end of a lively debate on India and China at the Royal Geographical Society in London Tuesday baffled many - India started out marginal favourites, but then lost heavily.

At the start of the debate, 266 members of the audience voted for the motion, ‘The future belongs to India, not China,’ while 223 voted against and 221 were undecided.

At the end, when the audience was asked to vote again, the don’t-knows had dwindled to 23, but a massive swing saw China take the day with 421 votes and India lumbering behind with 261 votes, five fewer than it had just over an hour ago.

It was, declared moderator Edward Lucas of The Economist magazine - and author of ‘The New Cold War’, one of the “sharpest” swings he had seen.

Speaking for India at the event were author and former CEO of Proctor & Gamble India, Gurcharan Das, veteran broadcaster Mark Tully and the international economist Deepak Lal.

The Chinese side had an equally distinguished team - Charles Powell, private secretary and foreign policy advisor to former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Malaysian-born economist Danny Quah, and Hong Kong businessman and socialite David Tang.

The difference, it appears, lay in how the two countries went about preparing for the future - or indeed the debate itself.

Although speakers on both sides agreed that in an ideal world the future would belong to India’s democracy, Powell - a former bureaucrat - told the audience that that was just “wishful thinking.”

“It may be what ought to happen, but it’s not going to happen,” Powell said.

“China has a strategy to own the future, to reclaim what it regards as its rightful leading place in the world. And it has a system of government that is geared to achieving just that. It is disciplined, single-minded and dynamic in pursuit of its goal in a way that a democracy cannot be,” Powell said.

As in the world outside, so inside the historic debating hall of the Royal Geographic Society.

The Chinese side were a thoroughly rehearsed lot - Powell spoke of rehearsals with the other speakers in his office.

And the Indian team? You guessed it: as the articulate and passionate Gurcharan Das later told IANS: “I don’t know about the others, but I certainly went through my speech several times.”

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