Mandalay now more Chinese than Indian: Harvard professor

April 24th, 2008 - 3:19 pm ICT by admin  

By Dipankar De Sarkar
London, April 24 (IANS) More than 70 years after Myanmar opted for independence from the Indian administration, its second largest city and former imperial capital is more Chinese than Indian, a Harvard academic and writer said. Mandalay’s transformation, Harvard Business School professor Tarun Khanna told a meeting of businessmen in London, showed how China’s “hard power” was winning the day over India’s “soft power”.

Speaking at the meeting organised by the UK India Business Council, Khanna said the world witnessed this hard versus soft power play most recently during the controversy over Tibet and the Olympic torch.

“This Sino-Indian movie has played out before and will be played out in the future many times over - in Iran, Burma (now Myanmar), Pakistan and Africa,” said Khanna, author of the book “Billions of Entrepreneurs: How China and India Are Reshaping Their Futures and Yours”.

“Burma is the first area where this Sino-Indian conflict has happened. When Chinese hard power hits Indian soft power - whether it is traders, or Buddhism - Chinese hard power wins.

“Mandalay, which used to be more or less an Indian city, is today a Chinese city,” he said. With Mandarin spoken widely, “the Indians are wiped out”.

“The inner penetration of ethnic Chinese in Burma is very deep now,” Khanna added.

Mandalay is said to take its name from two Pali words - Mandala, meaning ‘a plains land’, and Mandare, which means ‘an auspicious land.’ It used to called Ratnapura, or the city of gems.

It was captured by the British in 1885, when the reigning King Thibaw and his nationalist queen, Supayalat, whose official title was Sri Suriya Prabha Ratna Devi, were exiled to Ratnagiri in India.

Myanmar, which used to be administered as an Indian province, became a separately administered territory April 1, 1937 after a divided vote.

In an article written in 1998, former US State Department official David G. Brown said immigrants from China’s Yunnan province constitute roughly 20 percent of the population of Mandalay.

Khanna said the power play in Myanmar reflected India’s democracy. While India found it hard to deliver a single message because of the enormous checks and balances built into its democracy, “China is set up to message, which it does with incredible efficiency”.

But the author cautioned against attempts to “combat Chinese hard power with more hard power”.

“Playing China at its own game is a losing proposition,” he said, advocating engaging Beijing through trade and “conversation”.

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