The rise of China and India as major world powers promises to test the established global order in the coming decades. As the two powers grow, they are bound to change the current international system—with profound implications for themselves, the United States, and the world. And whether they agree on the changes to be made, especially when it comes to their relationship with the West, will influence the system’s future character. A close examination of Chinese and Indian perspectives on the fundamentals of the emerging international order reveals that Sino-Indian differences on many issues of both bilateral and global significance are stark.

Key Points

  • China and India’s sustained economic growth fuels their increasing geopolitical and military influence.
  • Despite their developmental similarities, China and India’s bilateral strategic rivalry means that they have competing priorities on most major global issues.
  • Sino-Indian differences are considerable on issues relating to the nonproliferation system, Asian security, regional stability in Southern Asia, and security in the maritime commons, space, and cyberspace. The two rising powers broadly agree on matters relating to the international economic system, energy security, and the environment.
  • Because of its ongoing shift to the Asia-Pacific and status as the only global superpower, the United States must manage a complex set of relationships with China and India, which are at times working at cross-purposes.

Chinese and Indian Positions on International Issues

Global Order: China and India tend to agree on the importance of state sovereignty and the need to reform global governance institutions to reflect the new balance of power. They also share a strong commitment to the open economic order that has allowed both powers to flourish in the global marketplace. But the two diverge on many details of the international system, such as the future viability of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the role of state-owned enterprises in fostering globalization.

Regional Security: Both China and India want a stable Asia-Pacific that will allow them to sustain their economic prosperity, but they perceive threats very differently and have divergent priorities. Importantly, India seeks a resolute American presence in the region to hedge against possible Chinese excesses, while China sees the United States as significantly complicating its pursuit of its regional goals and worries about American containment attempts.

Security in the Global Commons: Beijing and New Delhi rely heavily on open sea lines of communication, and as a result, they both support the current maritime security regime. However, their interpretations as to its provisions have occasionally diverged. In space, China enjoys significant advantages over India and has emphasized the military dimensions of its program, while New Delhi has only recently begun developing space-based military technology. Both countries are just beginning to wrestle with the difficult task of forming cybersecurity policies, but they have already acted to limit objectionable or illegal activities online. In striking the balance between online freedom and social stability, India has encountered a higher degree of opprobrium in the public sphere than its counterpart.

Nontraditional Security: Chinese and Indian approaches to both energy and the environment broadly converge. Because India and China face a rising domestic demand for energy, they heavily rely on foreign suppliers of energy resources. This has prompted both governments to seek more efficient power sources and to secure their presence in overseas energy markets. On environmental policy, the two countries focus on primarily local and short-term concerns that must be balanced with the need for economic growth.


The concurrent rise of China and India represents a geopolitical event of historic proportions. Rarely has the global system witnessed the reemergence of two major powers simultaneously—states that possess large populations, have ancient and storied histories, abut each other spatially and politically, and dominate the geographic environs within which they are located. Their return to center stage after several centuries of imperial domination thus presages the reincarnation of an earlier era in Asian geopolitics when China and India were among the most important concentrations of political power in the international system since the fall of Rome. The parallel revival of these two nations also dramatically exemplifies Asia’s resurgence in the global system. Although there has been a steady shift in the concentration of capabilities from West to East ever since the end of World War II, this transformation took a decisive turn when the smaller, early-industrializing nations of Asia—Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore—were joined by the large, continental-sized states of China and India.

The recent renaissance of China and India is owed in large measure to their productive integration into the liberal economic order built and sustained by American hegemony in the postwar period. As a result of that integration, both of these giants have experienced dramatic levels of economic growth in recent decades. China’s economic performance, for example, has been simply meteoric, exceeding even the impressive record set by the first generation of Asian tigers between 1960 and 1990. During the last thirty or so years, China has demonstrated average real growth in excess of 9 percent annually, with growth rates touching 13–14 percent in peak years.

As a result, China’s per capita income rose by more than 6 percent every year from 1978 to 2003—much faster than that of any other Asian country, significantly better than the 1.8 percent per year in Western Europe and the United States, and four times as fast as the world average. This feat has made the Chinese economy—in purchasing-power-parity terms—the second largest in the world with a 2010 gross domestic product (GDP) of roughly $10 trillion. Many scholars believe that China will likely overtake the United States in GDP size at some point during the first half of this century.

India’s economic performance has not yet matched China’s in either intensity or longevity. New Delhi’s economic reforms, which have produced India’s recent spurt in growth, began only in the early 1990s, over a decade after China’s. To date, these reforms have been neither comprehensive nor complete, and they have been hampered by the contestation inherent in India’s democratic politics, the complexity of the Indian federal system, the lack of elite consensus on critical policy issues, and the persistence of important rent-seeking entities within the national polity.

Beijing’s and New Delhi’s divergent behaviors are shaped by the unique histories governing their formation as modern states, the stark contrasts in their respective political regimes, and their ongoing territorial disputes and geopolitical rivalries.

Yet despite these disadvantages, the Indian economy has grown at a rate of about 7.5 percent during the first decade of this century. The country thus eclipsed its own historic underperformance and enabled a doubling of per capita income about every decade, placing the Indian economy, when measured by purchasing-power-parity methods, in fourth place globally with a 2010 GDP of approximately $4 trillion. More interestingly, India’s growth—unlike China’s, which relies extensively on foreign capital and export markets—has derived largely from internal sources. Accordingly, many analysts have concluded that continuing economic reforms will enable the country not only to reach its targeted objective of sustained double-digit growth but also to catch up with China in coming decades as Beijing’s own growth slows because of its incipient demographic transitions.

Even if these exact expectations are not met, China and India are likely to sustain their relatively high levels of GDP growth for some time to come. This continual accretion of economic power will position them among the top three economies internationally by the year 2030, if not earlier, thus confirming their status as global giants. Propelled by the rapid economic growth achieved thus far, China and India are already extending their political influence as well as strengthening their military capabilities and reach. China is quickly closing in on its goal of becoming a major global power, if it is not one already, and India is likely to achieve global-power status in the next two decades. Chinese and Indian contributions to the expansion of the international economic system are generally welcomed, with growth in both nations promising to function as the motor of the international economy for several decades to come. The two countries also share a common interest in ensuring that the international environment is peaceful to guarantee their continued economic consolidation and domestic political stability.

But if the history of previous rising powers is any indication, as China and India continue to grow they will want to progressively reshape the international system to advance their own interests—interests that may differ from those of the United States, the established hegemon that sustains the current global order. This does not imply, however, that Beijing and New Delhi invariably share common objectives in opposition to Washington. To be sure, the two countries are united by certain acknowledged aims: recovering the preeminence they once enjoyed as international entities of consequence; establishing a multipolar world with themselves as constituent poles; avoiding the costs of contributing to global public goods on the grounds that their vast developmental challenges are not yet overcome; and protecting their hard-won sovereignty in the face of new principles justifying foreign intervention in the internal affairs of states.

Despite these convergent objectives, China and India are also divided by deep differences in the conduct of their political affairs. Beijing’s and New Delhi’s divergent behaviors are shaped by the unique histories governing their formation as modern states, the stark contrasts in their respective political regimes, and their ongoing territorial disputes and geopolitical rivalries, which are exacerbated by their growing prominence in international politics. As one analysis concluded, “the relation[ship] between Asia’s two great powers can best be characterized as one of global cooperation on transnational issues especially vis-à-vis the ‘West,’ geostrategic rivalry at the regional level in the form of growing commercial exchange and in some cases bilateral competition.”1 This statement captures, in many ways, the conventional wisdom about the dichotomy in Sino-Indian ties: a broad convergence on transnational issues complemented by a deep bilateral rivalry that persists despite the two countries’ mutual and growing economic interdependence.

Whether the agreement on issues of global order, especially vis-à-vis the West, is real or whether it merely obscures important differences between the two rising powers is a critical question because it bears on the character and the extent of change that might be desired of the international system as it evolves. Accordingly, there is a pressing need to understand how these two emerging powers conceive of various issues relating to the global order. Such an understanding would reveal the extent of their comfort with the existing system while simultaneously providing clues about how they might seek to reshape it if they acquire the ability to do so in the future.

This volume is an attempt to understand how China and India think about various dimensions of the emerging global order. It brings together a series of paired papers by distinguished Chinese and Indian scholars who address a common set of questions (listed at the beginning of each chapter) relating to four broad areas of concern: the evolving global order, the challenges of regional security, key problems of the global commons, and emerging nontraditional security concerns.

The purpose of each paper is to explicate, rather than defend, the dominant national view on the subject in question. Although the personal views of the authors necessarily intrude in such an exercise, each paper consciously seeks to expound the mainstream opinion of Chinese or Indian policymakers and elites. The aim is to better inform an American audience about the extent of convergence and divergence in Chinese and Indian positions on various global issues. No summary can fully capture the detail and nuance of the two countries’ stances on these complex matters, but this introduction attempts to flag the elements of convergence and divergence in each pair of essays for policymakers, especially in the United States. Washington undoubtedly confronts serious pressure to formulate coherent policies that satisfy its short-term goals vis-à-vis both China and India while simultaneously responding to the long-term challenges represented by those states’ rise in Asia and beyond. If this analysis improves the U.S. understanding of where these two rising powers stand on various issues that matter to American interests, it will have served its purpose.



The first paired set of essays on the character of the international system, authored by Wang Jisi and C. Raja Mohan, addresses the fundamental questions of whether China and India view the extant global order as serving their critical interests, whether they believe that the international system is sufficiently respectful of their national sovereignty, and whether existing international institutions adequately reflect their growing power.

In answering these questions, Wang and Mohan agree that China’s and India’s views on the current global order have evolved along a similar trajectory. In the aftermath of the Second World War, both states—driven by strong anticolonialist impulses—opposed great-power politics and what was viewed as “superpower hegemony,” calling instead for a multipolar world. Since the end of the Cold War, however, both nations have become increasingly integrated into the U.S.-led international order. They recognize that this order has created a peaceful external environment within which they can safely develop, and they see globalization as a positive and, to some extent, inevitable trend (although Mohan identifies some Indian concerns on this point). As a result, China and India have abandoned calls for a complete overhaul of the global order and instead have come to support “merely” its revision.

Despite their engagement with the extant world order, both China and India remain concerned about this order’s ability to protect their state sovereignty. As both states are still in the midst of major state-building projects, sovereignty is a key priority. Beijing and New Delhi generally oppose Western-led interventions in the internal affairs of the developing world. But, more interestingly, Wang and Mohan also emphasize that China and India identify another potential threat: the increasing empowerment of individuals and civil society at the expense of the state. Both nations are suspicious of nongovernmental organizations in their countries, in part because of their perceived links with foreign states, and they also harbor extensive reservations about international norms that seek to bind the hands of national leaders in domestic matters. Moreover, they watch the rise of new technologies—such as innovations in cyberspace and social media—with some distrust.

Wang and Mohan argue that both China and India yearn for a greater role in the global order and that they currently feel underrepresented in key international bodies. Wang flags China’s lack of representation in international economic institutions, while Mohan highlights the fact that India is not a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). Both scholars also mention the importance of bolstering their countries’ domestic capacities to produce citizens that can effectively represent them on the world stage, indicating their perceived lack of suitable capability to meet the burdens of greater global leadership. In other words, the authors suggest that China and India are not yet global leaders due to a lack of both opportunity and capability.

Neither China nor India opposes international legal institutions in principle, but in practice both nations express strong reservations over the fact that institutions like the International Criminal Court can impinge on their sovereignty. In India’s case, the opposition is compounded by New Delhi’s perception that these organizations often discriminate against states that are not permanent members of the UNSC.

Wang and Mohan also agree that China and India share many common interests on global matters such as regime change and climate change. Mohan identifies this agreement as ultimately rooted in a mutual suspicion of “external transnational institutions”—incidentally, a suspicion that the United States often shares. More importantly, however, both authors insist that China’s and India’s attitudes toward the future global order will not be affected by international institutions and norms as much as they will be decided by domestic and national political considerations. If they are right, then China’s and India’s future relations with the global order will be determined more from within than from without, with sobering implications for American interests.

These elements of convergence speak to how China’s and India’s interests are often shaped by their relatively comparable levels of economic and political development. But the divergence in their positions is equally significant. While both countries are concerned, for example, about constraints on their sovereignty, the degree of concern differs greatly.

Wang observes that China holds to the principle of state sovereignty absolutely, writing that “the most salient tenet in China’s foreign relations has long been the safeguarding of [its] sovereignty and territorial integrity.” China sees many threats to this sovereignty as arising from the West, particularly the United States, and it has firmly opposed them at every step.

India, meanwhile, is becoming less concerned by threats posed by other states. According to Mohan, New Delhi does not object to Western intervention on the absoluteness of state sovereignty since “India recognizes the importance of states shedding some sovereignty to promote international cooperation,” an evolving position shaped both by Indian democracy and its liberal political inheritance. Rather, India opposes the “cavalier” humanitarian interventions of the West mainly because it doubts their sincerity and their efficacy. At times India will place humanitarian concerns above state sovereignty—but it will do so on the basis of pragmatic rather than ideological concerns.

Similarly, while China and India are both suspicious of the empowerment of individuals and society relative to the state, their responses to that development are markedly different. China has made it clear that it sees, in Wang’s words, this trend as “politically incorrect and unacceptable” and believes that sovereign rights will always be more valued than individual rights. Accordingly, Beijing has positioned itself against the emergence of a robust civil society by committing to the reinforcement of state power, including through heavy regulation and control. Moreover, China’s attitude has affected its perceptions of other states, and Wang notes that China does not distinguish between state actors and nonstate actors in the conduct of foreign relations. Conversely, India, which has struggled with the empowerment of civil society, has begun adapting to this reality. New Delhi has in fact embarked on state-supported efforts at empowering its citizenry through a variety of instruments ranging from acknowledging citizens’ legal right to seek information about state actions to expanding the scope of public interest litigation to creating a gigantic rights-based welfare state.

Furthermore, the fact that both China and India desire greater representation in international institutions does not mean that they concur with each other’s aspirations. In particular, China and India have clashed over the expansion of the UNSC. India has prioritized permanent UNSC representation, arguing, in Mohan’s words, that “the current structure . . . is outmoded and ineffective.” In contrast, China insists that any expansion include more developing countries, preserve the geographical balance, and represent different cultures and civilizations. Although Indian representation would meet these criteria in theory, China opposes India’s inclusion in the UNSC. As Wang notes, China “is essentially content” with the UNSC’s current composition.

For all their convergence at the international level, therefore, the geopolitical rivalry between China and India often impedes practical cooperation between the two states. Both Wang and Mohan acknowledge the mutual distrust between the two countries. Wang sees China as fearful of American containment and thus wary of the United States’ developing relationship with India. However, Mohan argues that India is not necessarily moving closer to the United States but that China is pushing Washington and New Delhi closer together by virtue of its adoption of potentially interventionist policies that threaten India’s interests in its own neighborhood.

On balance, Sino-Indian divergence on many matters of global order may be deeper than the common rhetoric suggests. While China and India agree in the abstract on concepts such as state sovereignty and humanitarian intervention, they are divided by their perceptions of the threats facing the international system as well as by their concerns about their own security. China deeply fears American intrusions on its sovereignty and is acutely conscious of the leverage India possesses regarding Tibet’s future as a Chinese province. Although India is still hesitant to confront China outright or commit to a strong affiliation with the United States, Mohan notes that New Delhi and Washington are growing closer on issues such as democracy and humanitarian intervention. Wang maintains that China remains obdurately opposed to these issues.

Considerations for U.S. Policy
  • How can the United States integrate China, India, and other emerging powers into various international institutions without diluting their efficiency, threatening U.S. power, or transforming these bodies into further avenues for increased Sino-Indian or Sino-U.S. rivalry?

  • How can the United States lead the reform of the UNSC and other international bodies concerned with global rulemaking if there continue to be significant gaps in preferences even between democratic partners such as the United States and India?

  • How can the United States ameliorate China’s and India’s concerns about threats to sovereignty without compromising on the fundamental objectives of the liberal international order centered on the respect for persons?


The second pair of essays in the section on the evolving global order, authored by Zhang Yunling and Rajiv Kumar/Anshuman Khanna, addresses, respectively, China’s and India’s perceptions of the liberal international economic order. These essays examine how the order serves the two countries’ interests, how the nations reconcile their still-significant state controls on economic policy with integration into an open global market, how they view the dollar as an international reserve currency, how the liberal trading order ought to be expanded, and finally how the geopolitical challenges arising from the differential rates of growth in an open international economic system should be managed.

Given China’s and India’s recent economic successes, it is not surprising that both Zhang’s and Kumar/Khanna’s contributions stress the two countries’ complete support for an open economic order now and into the future. Zhang notes that “China will surely continue to support an open, transparent, and rule-based global trade system.” Kumar/Khanna echo these sentiments, arguing that “it can be unequivocally said that India is and will remain committed to a free-market-based and liberal global economic order.”

Zhang and Kumar/Khanna emphasize that China and India’s shared commitment to the global economic system is fundamentally rooted in the benefits that order has bestowed on their states. They agree that China and India have not only grown as a result of their integration into the global economic system but also used that integration as a force for beneficial domestic reforms. Both countries intend to continue their external integration and internal reform even as they simultaneously undergo consequential economic, social, and political transitions.

While China stresses reforming state-owned enterprises, India believes the problem is structural and thus advises reforming the system itself.

Despite the benefits offered by the liberal trading order, however, Zhang and Kumar/Khanna affirm that their countries are dissatisfied by the existing balance of power in many global institutions, especially those pertaining to international finance. China and India are well aware of their growing economic heft within the international trading system, and they see the rise of the G20 and the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) as reflecting a larger shift in economic power from the developed to the developing world. Accordingly, Beijing and New Delhi believe that developing nations are entitled to greater representation and rights within international finance institutions—especially the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank—and that the fundamental structure of these organizations must be altered. China and India also agree that these institutions are becoming increasingly important in the current global climate. Both sets of authors propose strengthening the IMF, with Zhang arguing that the institution should play a larger role in managing global monetary policy and financial markets and Kumar/Khanna believing that the IMF’s mandate should be extended to include global macroeconomic balances. Additionally, both identify Chinese and Indian fears of rising protectionism among developed countries, and they emphasize that the West should not fence off its economies from globalization, given the importance of a universal free market.

Despite both essays’ conspicuous endorsement of an open international economic order, the authors acknowledge that both China and India maintain substantial state controls in their domestic economic systems. These controls are defended as necessary given each country’s relative stage of development. Both Zhang and Kumar/Khanna note that state controls are the lowest they have ever been in the history of their respective countries and that they will continue to shrink as both economies move toward a more market-based system.

Additionally, China’s and India’s currencies are not fully convertible. Both countries argue that the convertibility of their currency is increasing in pace with other economic reforms, but Kumar/Khanna also caution that premature moves toward full convertibility could destabilize exchange markets and cause India’s currency value to fluctuate wildly. In this context, Zhang and Kumar/Khanna agree that the U.S. dollar will remain the global reserve currency for the foreseeable future, largely because no other currency can successfully replace it at this juncture.

Both papers in this pair declare that China and India seek a greater leadership role in the maintenance of the international economic order, a position that derives from their growing economic power. However, both countries acknowledge that they will be unable to take a primary leadership role any time soon because of their still-significant economic, political, and social constraints. Both sets of authors point to domestic constraints as a key obstacle to China and India replacing the United States, an intriguing counterpoint to most international discussions that presume Beijing and New Delhi will step into such a role simply as a function of their increased relative economic power. Kumar/Khanna implicitly contest this expectation, writing that “internal and domestic considerations dominate any global interaction.” Zhang and Kumar/Khanna also doubt that either country will experience a future tradeoff between greater integration into the open economic system and continued rapid national growth, an eventuality that many predict. Kumar/Khanna believe that “this stage is still a long way off.”

Given the expectation that China and India will continue to benefit from the system, it is not surprising that both countries want to conclude the Doha Round of World Trade Organization negotiations expeditiously and in general strongly prioritize the expansion of the global economic order. Reflecting India’s aspirations, Kumar/Khanna stress the importance of working toward free trade in agricultural goods and the free temporary movement of workers across national borders. Interestingly, free trade in agricultural goods is not yet reflected in the government of India’s negotiating preferences in trade policy.

The two sets of authors affirm that in the absence of global progress, China and India will continue to support bilateral and regional arrangements, including free trade agreements (FTAs), that advance economic goals in a manner that complements global efforts. Both countries prioritize global agreements over regional ones, however, and are committed to not letting the latter become obstacles to the former.

On the critical question of the geopolitical challenges posed by the differential rates of growth arising from an open international order—the core challenge for the United States today—Kumar/Khanna argue that India does not consider differential returns a threat because they are a direct product of integration into the global economy. For India, then, the lesson is clear: integration is the best option both because it limits the misuse of a state’s power and because the alternative to open trade puts India in an even weaker position. This reflects the standard liberal defense of free trade. Zhang’s paper, however, circumvents this question, perhaps in part because China, profiting more than most from the current economic order, would prefer not to draw attention to the issue of geopolitical gains for fear that it might lead to both greater protectionist pressures in the West and more concerted efforts to balance rising Chinese power.

This element of divergence in the two papers is reflective of other important disagreements as well. For example, while China and India agree on the importance of increasing developing-country representation in the governance structures of the World Bank, their wishes for the orientation of the World Bank’s future mandate seem to differ subtly. Zhang notes that China wants the World Bank to focus more on clean government and transparency as well as on sustainable development. Kumar/Khanna do not necessarily disagree, but they argue that India is torn between orienting the World Bank more toward development finance or more toward a focus on only the least-developed economies (thus excluding China and India).

A more serious divergence materializes over the issue of how an open economic order abroad is to be reconciled with continuing state controls at home. The two sets of authors disagree over the role of state-owned enterprises and how the international economic system should respond to their rising influence. Zhang argues that there is a need “to continue to reform state-owned enterprises and [to] create a fair competitive environment for the non-state sector,” tacitly acknowledging that state-owned enterprises will continue to play an important role in China’s economy. In short, China maintains that state-owned enterprises can be reformed in a way that harmonizes their existence with the current international economic system. Kumar/Khanna, by contrast, argue that “the present multilateral liberal trading order was based on the premise that the major actors will be private enterprises. With the emergence of state-owned capitalist enterprises, this premise is no longer valid.” Additionally, India also evinces concern over governments’ acquisitions of intellectual property. Because India too continues to maintain state-owned enterprises (albeit without international operations on a scale comparable to China), Kumar/Khanna’s position represents an important dissenting view in regard to their own government’s policies. The differences are clear: while China stresses reforming state-owned enterprises, India believes the problem is structural and thus advises reforming the system itself.

Despite agreeing that the U.S. dollar is likely to remain the global reserve currency in the near future, Zhang and Kumar/Khanna sharply disagree over the merits of dollar dominance. Zhang argues that the world should either create a new international reserve currency or move toward a multicurrency system. In the short term, though, China hopes that the United States will follow responsible monetary and macroeconomic policies that keep the dollar stable. Kumar/Khanna, on the other hand, see no immediate need to change the existing dollar-based system, especially since that could prove destabilizing. This position reflects Indian fears of instability arising from any transition to a multicurrency system and, even worse, of the replacement of the dollar by the Chinese yuan, should the latter become fully convertible in the future.

In a similar vein, while both China and India support expanding the global trading system, they disagree on whether bilateral and regional FTAs are an obstacle. Zhang argues that China considers regional arrangements to be incredibly important, and his essay clearly stresses China’s continued interest in expanding them. But Kumar/Khanna fear that bilateral and regional trade agreements could undermine the multilateral trading order. As a result, they call for the World Trade Organization to play a greater role in monitoring these regional FTAs and ensuring they are not diverting trade. This position again reflects the traditional Indian ambivalence about subglobal FTAs, even if it is not fully incorporated in current Indian governmental policies.

Considerations for U.S. Policy
  • How can the United States lead the reform of international financial institutions to accommodate rising powers when these nations’ substantive commitment to the liberal order still remains somewhat uncertain?
  • How can Washington pursue the enlargement of the global trading order in the face of new entrants, such as state-owned enterprises, that could be little more than state proxies in a field otherwise populated by private-market players?
  • How can the United States protect the status of the U.S. dollar as the international reserve currency (with its accompanying “exorbitant privilege”) in the face of significant global imbalances?
  • How can Washington sustain its commitment to expanding the world trading system if the proliferation of bilateral and regional FTAs continually accentuates trade diversion?
  • How can the United States continue to sustain the open trading order if its net consequence is breeding new global rivals to American primacy?


The last pair of papers in the section on the evolving global order focuses on the nuclear nonproliferation system. Authored by Li Bin and T. P. Sreenivasan, the papers address how each country views the global nonproliferation system and its success thus far, what changes should be made in the system’s constitution to ensure its continued viability, how the outlier states ought to be treated, and how the system should respond to the new nuclear threats that have emerged on the horizon.

A comparison of the two contributions is challenging because of the asymmetry in how many questions of importance are treated. Whereas Indian policymakers have expressed clear opinions over the years about different aspects of the global nonproliferation system, their Chinese counterparts have often been silent, obscure, or ambiguous. Consequently, the following comparison will flag issues of convergence and divergence while indicating wherever appropriate when an authoritative Chinese position is unavailable.

At the highest level of abstraction, both China and India concede that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) regime has advanced global nonproliferation goals, at least insofar as it has served as a brake on the runaway proliferation of nuclear weapons that might have occurred in the regime’s absence. This judgment is obviously a contingent one. The choices of many states, the role of bipolarity in tamping down regional rivalries, the role of the United States as a security provider, and the high costs of nuclear-weapons programs also presumably all contributed to reducing the incentives for proliferation.

Regardless, Sreenivasan argues that although India continues to have significant disagreements with the NPT system, New Delhi is “much more committed to the holistic purposes of the NPT than some of the signatories” and has unilaterally implemented many significant measures to advance the NPT’s nonproliferation and disarmament goals. This claim is anchored in India’s unsullied record in regard to outward proliferation, which contrasts sharply with the records of both Pakistan and China. Presumably recognizing this history, Li’s paper proffers a lesser claim: China’s support of the nonproliferation system has strengthened since it signed the NPT in 1992, some twenty-two years after the treaty came into force.

In this context, Li and Sreenivasan note that their countries have generally been unsympathetic to contemporary challengers to the NPT system—but the devil is in the details. Both China and India, for example, have strongly condemned North Korea’s nuclear program. But given Chinese dilemmas and interests regarding North Korea, Beijing has not prioritized compelling Pyongyang to give up its nuclear program. Lacking similar equities and given New Delhi’s chagrin at North Korea’s nuclear and missile cooperation with Pakistan, India’s condemnation of the North Korean program has been more unequivocal.

There is less disagreement with respect to Iran. Both China and India find themselves in a dilemma: they do not want to challenge Tehran’s right to peaceful nuclear technology, but they are concerned about its nuclear program.

Despite the differences between the North Korean and Iranian cases, both authors highlight their countries’ insistence on engaging with states challenging the NPT system. In part, this is because Beijing and New Delhi recognize that North Korea’s and Iran’s decisions are driven by the larger political and security contexts in their respective regions. Accordingly, both China and India oppose the threat or use of force to coerce these nations and wish for an amicable resolution to the dispute through “the improvement of overall international relations and appropriate settlement of regional security problems,” as Li characterizes it. Both China and India also maintain that they scrupulously follow international obligations over national interests when interacting with either North Korea or Iran. Li and Sreenivasan insist that their countries are seeking less punitive international strategies not because they are self-serving but because they are more effective.

In the essays, China’s and India’s assessments of the NPT system’s future range from ambiguous to pessimistic. Li notes that China believes “the global nuclear nonproliferation system should deal with nuclear nonproliferation and [the] peaceful use of nuclear energy in a balanced way,” but that nuclear-weapons proliferation should be stopped even if it occurs “in the name of nuclear energy.” This strong position, however, is in tension with his assessment that Chinese scientists also fear excessively precluding access to peaceful technology, arguing that nonproliferation efforts should be focused on other portions of the proliferation chain.

Sreenivasan presents a much more pessimistic view. He argues that the discriminatory and inflexible nature of the NPT regime, when combined with its commitment to permanence, makes it ill-suited to be either durable or effective over the long run. In particular, he contends (somewhat speculatively) that whether nuclear-weapon states honor their commitment to disarmament considerably influences whether non-nuclear-weapon states will be tempted to use nuclear technology that the NPT allows peaceful purposes in order to develop nuclear weapons. Regardless, Sreenivasan notes that there has only been one country that has left the NPT—North Korea—and that it did not acquire access to nuclear technology through the NPT regime itself. While Sreenivasan is somewhat optimistic about the possibility of eventually eliminating nuclear weapons altogether, India does not seem to think that the NPT will aid this process so much as hinder it.

Li and Sreenivasan agree about the role of the international community in curbing proliferation but again only at the highest level of generality. Both contend that states should extensively cooperate, share best practices and intelligence, and strengthen national export-control systems to combat nuclear proliferation. But both are unsure of the legality of violating a state’s sovereignty to secure nuclear materials or substantive compliance with existing obligations.

The superficial similarities in Chinese and Indian positions on proliferation mask deeper disagreements. China and India diverge sharply in their evaluation of the NPT system’s success. Despite China’s initial opposition to the NPT regime, Li argues that China now sees the system as a success and views the treaty as “the cornerstone of the global nuclear nonproliferation system.” This change of heart is linked closely to the treaty’s recognition of China as a legitimate nuclear-weapon state.

In contrast, the NPT treats India as a de jure outlier. Consequently, Sreenivasan emphasizes India’s continuing complaints about the flaws in the NPT system, claiming that the regime is under “severe stress” and in dire need of “renewal and rejuvenation.” He contends that while the system has positively affected global nonproliferation efforts to some extent, its contribution has been more limited than its admirers believe. While the Indian government would certainly endorse Sreenivasan’s assessment about the need for renewal, it is likely to have a more positive view of the value of the NPT than many critical Indian opinions might suggest because New Delhi values the treaty’s role in preventing further proliferation in the international system.

Chinese and Indian grievances about the NPT continue to be shaped by how the treaty treats the two countries legally. Although Chinese liberals still evince distaste for the regime’s discriminatory aspects—a position once held by China as a whole—the country has since reconciled itself to the NPT regime and has consistently upheld it at least at a declaratory level since 1992. Li notes that at the 1995 NPT Review Conference China “gave higher priority to its cooperation with other nuclear-weapon states than with other developing countries.” India, however, continues to harbor complaints about the treaty, though their public articulation has been muted considerably in recent years, particularly after the successful conclusion of the U.S.-India civilian nuclear cooperation agreement.

Most importantly, New Delhi still believes, at least at a conceptual level, that the NPT regime remains fundamentally discriminatory, dividing states with nuclear weapons from those without. As Sreenivasan notes, India originally sought an NPT that would be a grand bargain: nonproliferation in exchange for disarmament, with the eventual goal of the total elimination of nuclear weapons. However, the NPT ended up holding nonproliferation as an end in and of itself. To some extent, even China agrees with this position since it maintains, as Li puts it, that “all nuclear-weapon states should . . . publicly commit to not seek permanent possession of nuclear weapons.” But, in practice, China has passed the burden of disarmament on to the bigger nuclear-weapon states and will join the process only “when appropriate conditions are met”—or, in other words, when the larger U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals are reduced to levels approaching parity with China’s.

Compounding India’s objections is the permanence of the regime established during the 1995 Review Conference. India believes that the NPT should be a dynamic, flexible document that can adjust to developing situations. Instead, Sreenivasan argues that India believes the treaty is “froze[n] . . . in time and space.” Sreenivasan states that New Delhi would only join the NPT if it were amended to allow India to join as a nuclear-weapon state. Finally, India opposes the general exclusionary approach of the NPT system that, in its view, seeks to ostracize nonsignatories. India believes that the regime needs to be more inclusive, with stronger compliance measures so that all commitments (including disarmament) are actively pursued. As part of this, India believes that the membership of groups such as the Nuclear Suppliers Group, a multinational body that regulates the import and export of materials used to make nuclear weapons, and the Missile Technology Control Regime, which seeks to prevent the proliferation of missile and drone technology, should be open to all interested countries, not just NPT signatories, in order to increase their efficacy.

China and India also diverge on how to manage the outlier states that never signed the NPT. Although China has never explicitly addressed this question, it appears to oppose the partial integration of some states as evinced by its opposition to the U.S.-India civilian nuclear cooperation agreement. Li argues that both Chinese liberals and realists opposed this agreement for different reasons: liberals because they felt that the deal subverted the universality of the NPT regime and realists because they saw the deal as a U.S.-Indian attempt to counterbalance China’s growing strength. In contrast, Sreenivasan argues that the deal was made possible by India’s “impeccable” nonproliferation record, and as a result, the deal proved to be a successful method of active partnership between India and members of the NPT regime, strengthening the system. Consequently, it remains a good example of how “India has become a partner in the nonproliferation regime, rather than a target of it.”

Despite this clear disagreement, there is a small element of convergence as well. China and India agree that a similar deal should not be extended to other NPT outliers, but their reasons differ. China seems to believe that the U.S.-India deal was flawed in principle, whereas India believes that the deal was uniquely tailored to India’s circumstances and thus cannot be successfully used in alternate situations.

Where the outliers are concerned, therefore, China appears to stand fast by the canonical objectives of older U.S. policy—namely, to integrate them eventually into the regime as non-nuclear-weapon states. Thus, for example, China has repeatedly endorsed a South Asian nuclear-weapons-free zone (presumably because it would imply India’s nuclear disarmament) and strongly supports a Middle Eastern nuclear-weapons-free zone (which would entail Israel’s nuclear disarmament). In contrast, Sreenivasan writes that India believes the NPT regime should treat outliers as partners in nonproliferation efforts by considering the threats they face and engaging with them.

A number of questions will continue to bedevil U.S. policy in the nonproliferation arena for years to come. Their solutions will only be found, not by engaging the declaratory policies of the emerging powers, but by patient diplomacy that speaks to the real interests of these emerging countries in any given situation.

Considerations for U.S. Policy
  • How can the United States strengthen the NPT system through possible incorporation of outliers in the face of the significant differences that exist on this score between Washington and Beijing?
  • How can the United States secure Chinese and Indian cooperation in addressing the nuclear challenges posed by North Korea and Iran when Beijing and New Delhi have different priorities relative to Washington on these issues?
  • How can the United States balance the respect for sovereignty against the threats posed by nuclear-weapons proliferation, especially when major rising powers such as China and India remain reluctant to concede the legitimacy of coercive approaches even when they believe nuclear proliferation poses a grave threat?



The second section of this volume begins with a paired assessment of the key challenges confronting Asian security writ large. The papers authored by Xia Liping and Srikanth Kondapalli examine Chinese and Indian perceptions of the most pressing security concerns in Asia, the strategies adopted by each country for dealing with these issues, the appropriate mix of military and nonmilitary solutions in this context, and their views of the U.S. role in upholding stability in Asia.

Unsurprisingly, in judging which security issues are most pressing to China and India, Xia and Kondapalli flag three very divergent concerns that underscore the differences in geography, regional context, and the specific threats facing both states. Nevertheless, the challenges they point to share some common threads. From Beijing’s perspective, China’s most important security concerns are the confrontation on the Korean Peninsula, the South China Sea dispute, and the Iranian nuclear program. Kondapalli, in contrast, emphasizes unresolved sovereignty and territorial disputes, terrorism, and the challenge of maintaining high economic growth as critical for India. While Xia’s concerns are shaped by geography and span many different subjects—as he notes, “all three issues have involved outside major powers and have posed both traditional and nontraditional challenges to the region and the world”—Kondapalli’s concerns are functional and span many different countries (but, in practice, tend to revolve around only a handful of states).

Both China and India are modernizing their militaries as a defensive hedge against external aggression—but with a marked difference in emphasis.

Xia’s assessment also focuses exclusively on the traditional security challenges posed by other states, whereas Kondapalli’s concerns encompass substate threats (terrorism) as well as nontraditional security challenges (economic development). Similarly, Kondapalli takes into account security concerns spawned by domestic issues, whereas Xia does not. Perhaps most tellingly, Xia argues that the three challenges he identifies have been severely complicated by the actions of the United States. Kondapalli, in turn, points to both China and Pakistan as key sources of insecurity for India when it comes to sovereignty and terrorism.

The common thread in both papers, therefore, is sovereignty: Kondapalli highlights this issue as a critical matter for India, and all three of Xia’s concerns involve questions of sovereignty. This focus serves as a stark reminder of how China and India, despite being rising powers, are still young states struggling to protect their interests in a large, competitive international system.

A subsidiary element of commonality is economic development. Kondapalli emphasizes this concern clearly, a testament to India’s principal preoccupation today. Xia notes that China “will focus its attention . . . on building a well-off society” in the first two decades of the twenty-first century, for which it “needs a long-term peaceful and stable international environment.”

Where the national security strategies for dealing with these problems are concerned, Xia and Kondapalli display important convergence: both stress that their respective countries have prioritized economic growth even though China and India continue to pursue other long-standing objectives, such as national reunification and strategic autonomy, respectively. Each of these countries thus seems caught between the competing imperatives of security and economic growth. Kondapalli describes India’s strategy as one that satisfies the country’s “sovereignty and territorial integrity needs . . . by gradually enhancing its conventional and strategic deterrence posture, while at the same time maintaining uninterrupted economic growth figures through mutually beneficial diplomatic, economic, and security arrangements,” a characterization which could aptly describe China’s strategy as well.

In the pursuit of their strategies, China and India have adopted very similar means. Both stress the importance of international cooperation, collective security measures and multilateral security dialogues, diplomatic outreach, negotiation as the primary method of dispute resolution, and expanded economic ties. Additionally, both generally eschew unilateral or coalitional attempts to address Asia’s security challenges. Instead, China and India stress the importance of multilateral and regional fora while remaining cognizant that some security challenges are best dealt with at the bilateral level. Both countries also envision a proactive and positive role for themselves in resolving the region’s disputes and even guaranteeing their neighbors’ security.

In this context, Xia and Kondapalli maintain that both China and India have primarily focused on nonmilitary instruments to advance Asian security. Both countries see force as a last resort and argue that its use should be limited. Nevertheless, both China and India are modernizing their militaries as a defensive hedge against external aggression—but with a marked difference in emphasis.

Xia notes that China is upgrading its military in part “to deter military interference by other major powers,” presumably the United States. In contrast, Kondapalli seems to foresee India’s military as being involved mostly in smaller conflicts in its neighborhood. Additionally, with regard to aiding other states through the use of military tools—a contingency on which Xia’s paper is silent—Kondapalli strongly stresses the importance of legitimacy as conferred either by the United Nations or by the country requesting Indian forces. Thus, although Xia and Kondapalli do not disagree per se, Xia sees China as developing its military based on unilateral defense imperatives, whereas Kondapalli stresses the importance of providing nontraditional assistance to other states as an additional task for India’s military forces.

The two nations are thus slowly departing from their strict insularity of yesteryear and instead exploring how their military capabilities might serve emerging interests, including through the use of military instruments for nontraditional security operations (such as humanitarian relief and peacekeeping) and for collective-security measures. As they contemplate such departures, both countries agree that confidence-building measures have a crucial role in preventing conflict, which plays into their shared desire to avoid the use of force.

Most interestingly, however, Xia and Kondapalli argue that both China and India see the United States as an indispensable actor in Asia. Both Asian countries are well aware of the considerable American military strength in the region and the unlikelihood of its departure in the foreseeable future. Both also accept the American presence—though with varying degrees of enthusiasm—and see it as being in their national interests. Neither seeks to challenge U.S. leadership on this front. Despite the differences that both China and India have with the United States, they want Washington to play a constructive role in maintaining regional security and in promoting economic cooperation and integration.

For all the commonality in their approaches to Asian security, China’s and India’s national security strategies differ in three important respects.

First, Xia notes that China strongly opposes multilateral military alliances. While Kondapalli does not assert that India is specifically looking for them, he acknowledges that India perceives the value of existing American alliances to its security. Although New Delhi will not join such organizations, he suggests that India is less averse to bilateral military cooperation as long as it can maintain its strategic autonomy.

Second, Xia and Kondapalli disagree on the potential usefulness of Asia-wide institutions. China doubts that an Asia-wide organization can adequately represent such a geopolitically diverse region, but India sees potential in such initiatives despite their failure to resolve major security issues in the past.

Third, although both Xia and Kondapalli welcome the American presence in the Asian region, they seem to do so on the basis of mutually exclusive assumptions. Xia argues that China seeks a United States that engages and cooperates with its rise, while Kondapalli notes that India wants more resolute pushback against China’s excesses and is wary of any U.S. actions suggesting a Sino-American condominium in the form of a “G2.” Additionally, Beijing wants Washington to make it clear to smaller Asian countries that it is not balancing against China, therefore discouraging them from confronting China over territorial disputes on the assumption that Washington will back their claims. Beijing also wants the United States to back away from its current militarization of regional issues, such as Taiwan, the Chinese-Japanese disputes, and the maritime squabbles in the South China Sea. India, in contrast, expects the opposite: it wants Washington to act as a balancing force against China’s “irredentist encroachment . . . on the global commons.” Yet because the United States has been inconsistent about doing so, New Delhi remains hesitant about aligning too closely with Washington and will continue to pursue strategic autonomy.

Considerations for U.S. Policy
  • How can the United States develop an appropriate security strategy for the Asian region that balances against Chinese assertiveness without precipitating a confrontation with Beijing?
  • How can Washington reassure its Asian allies about their security without providing them incentives to mount their own challenges against China under cover of the U.S. security umbrella?
  • How can the United States sustain good relations with China and India simultaneously, given the suspicions and rivalries between the two?
  • Should the United States be pursuing the creation of an Asia-wide security forum that overlays the multiple extant regional and bilateral organizations?


The second pair of essays in this section focuses on the challenges in Southern Asia, defined as the Indian subcontinent in its larger environs, including Afghanistan and China. The two papers, authored by Li Li and Srinath Raghavan on China’s and India’s perspectives, respectively, assess each country’s strategic objectives in the region, the key threats—including nonsecurity ones—perceived by each state, the nature of the political relations enjoyed by each nation with the other regional states and their impact on each other, and their views of the United States in the region.

The most striking conclusion emerging from Li’s and Raghavan’s analyses is that Chinese and Indian objectives in Southern Asia, at least at a formal level, are not as virulently opposed as is sometimes imagined. In fact, they might be more similar than divergent, despite the presence of some important, ineradicable irritants.

Li argues that China seeks—in order of decreasing importance—a friendly, stable, and prosperous Southern Asia. Although Raghavan does not rank India’s priorities in a similar fashion, he notes that New Delhi has prioritized regional economic integration, the normalization of relations between India and its neighbors, and the promotion of regional stability. Both authors also mention the importance of their countries’ sea lines of communication through the Indian Ocean.

The most prominent element of divergence in their strategic objectives, as expressed in these papers, pertains to democracy promotion. Raghavan notes that India seeks to promote democracy in the region and to influence the “policies pursued by states in the region against sections of their own populations.” China, obviously, does not share this interest, but this divergence may be less significant than it appears. Although India has always felt comforted by the spread of democracy in the region and has sought to promote it through exhortation and example, its hegemony in Southern Asia has paradoxically curbed India’s urge to proselytize on behalf of democracy for fear of riling its smaller neighbors.

A more significant divergence may be structural in nature. Because of India’s location, what happens in Southern Asia or its environs is of enormous importance to New Delhi, whereas the great distance of the Chinese core from Southern Asia makes regional events less pressing to Beijing. As Li notes, China has been somewhat uninterested in the region as a whole historically, although that situation is now changing.

Given the broad similarity in strategic objectives, at least at a formal level, it is not surprising that both Li and Raghavan identify many of the same security threats, ranging from unstable states to terrorism to the volatile Indo-Pakistani relationship. It is interesting that neither author emphasizes the presence and capabilities of the other state as constituting a primary security threat, though the challenges posed by each to the other are never far from the surface. The Chinese and Indian assessments of geopolitical threats, thus, continue to often be polite but pointed.

Both essays, for example, agree that the intimacy of the Sino-Pakistani relationship has been, in Li’s words, “an irritant” in the Sino-Indian relationship, and that in an ideal world the two relationships would be, in Raghavan’s words, “de-link[ed]” from each other. While both authors therefore believe that China and India would like to separate their bilateral relationship from China’s relationship with Pakistan, they differ on the prospect of this occurring. Li argues that “since China and India have agreed to look at their relationship in a broader context and perceive a stable and cooperative partnership as a guarantee to their simultaneous rise, neither of them wants to see the Pakistan issue derailing their relations.” Raghavan, on the other hand, is much less optimistic, arguing that pure de-linkage is not “a realistic prospect in the foreseeable future” and that, in fact, “if Pakistan’s dependence on China increases in the years ahead, New Delhi may have to start thinking about Pakistan as a subset of the larger challenges posed by China.” Reflecting the complexity of regional geopolitics, however, both authors identify China as a significant and positive factor in Pakistan’s recent decision to begin normalizing economic relations with India, thereby suggesting that China’s relations with the smaller regional states cut in multiple directions.

Li and Raghavan identify a range of issues relating to the smaller Southern Asian states on which both China and India seem to agree. In particular, while both countries eye each other with some suspicion, they do not see themselves as fully locked into a zero-sum game for influence. Competition exists, but core strategic interests are not consistently diametrically opposed (and sometimes they even align). Thus, for instance, both countries welcome Myanmar’s reform process and see each other’s increasingly active role in Afghanistan as a positive development. Both are also aware of the great potential for misunderstanding, particularly from any Chinese moves in India’s “backyard,” as Li puts it, and both appear to be working carefully to create a constructive dynamic in these smaller states.

Chinese and Indian perceptions of security threats diverge most conspicuously in the nontraditional realm. The two analyses suggest that while China and India share many mutual security threats, they emphasize different nontraditional security threats. China has focused on drug trafficking and organized crime emanating from the region—particularly from Afghanistan and Myanmar—while India has instead emphasized environmental and natural-resource issues.

How China and India manage their interests in Southern Asia is another important issue for comparison. Both countries see economic cooperation as the principal instrument for achieving their strategic objectives. India in particular, as Raghavan phrases it, is willing “to bear asymmetric burdens” in order to do so and has accordingly entered into lopsided trade agreements, most likely a reflection of its greater investment and stakes in the region. Additionally, China and India have both supported efforts at diplomatic engagement and encouraged regional cooperation where possible.

But there is an important difference as well, which is once again linked to the geographic locations of China and India and the stakes they perceive in Southern Asia. Significantly, China and India differ in their perspectives on the usefulness of force in the region to achieve their strategic objectives. China appears to have drawn the line at cooperative security measures, espousing a strong policy of noninterference in the domestic affairs of Southern Asian countries. While advocating similar principles as the preferred course, India has nevertheless built up its military and weighed, in Raghavan’s words, “the adoption of punitive strategies” aimed primarily at Pakistan and rooted in its continued dalliance with terrorism. (China, it should be noted, has adopted a similar posture in East Asia where it has greater geopolitical stakes, but not in Southern Asia.) From the Indian perspective, Raghavan notes that “there is no reason to assume the futility of force” in securing Indian strategic objectives, although the Indian use of military instruments is conditioned by a deep skepticism as to what they can actually achieve.

Finally, Chinese and Indian perspectives seem most sharply divided on their judgments about the role of the United States in Southern Asia. Li flags the Chinese perception that the American “pivot” to Asia is itself a potential security threat, perhaps because it is also perceived as implicating India. According to Raghavan, New Delhi does not subscribe to this view. Although both authors agree that the extant American role in the region has helped slow the spread of extremism and terrorism and prevent the Indo-Pakistani rivalry from spiraling out of control, Raghavan’s appraisal of the U.S. role is more positive than Li’s. Raghavan identifies the United States as an exclusively beneficial actor, arguing that any differences between Washington and New Delhi are matters of “emphases and priorities” rather than objectives and that India seeks to continue working with the United States in areas of common strategic interest while managing operational differences.

In contrast, Li notes that while the United States has helped secure China to some extent, Beijing still sees Washington’s increasing presence in Asia as a threat to Chinese interests and a possible prelude to containment. Notably, Li identifies the U.S.-Indian relationship as one of the elements of encirclement threatening China. To counteract these policies, Li argues that China has adopted a dual strategy of playing up common interests with the United States while strengthening its regional ties and modernizing its military as a hedge against American threats. Interestingly, Li admits that the latter half of China’s policy may provoke a security dilemma with India, which seems like a realistic possibility when paired with Raghavan’s upbeat assessment of U.S.-Indian ties.

Considerations for U.S. Policy
  • How can the United States encourage China to deepen its engagement with the smaller regional states without exacerbating existing security dilemmas with India or increasing the threats posed to U.S. interests?
  • How can the United States and India encourage China to press Pakistan to cease its support for terrorism without deepening Islamabad’s paranoia and fears of abandonment?
  • How can the United States support India in encouraging political reform in the smaller regional states and greater economic integration within Southern Asia without intensifying local fears of Indian hegemony?
  • How can the United States support stable bilateral relationships with both China and India while simultaneously balancing against China’s rise?



The first paired set in the third section of this volume concentrates on the maritime dimension of the global commons. In essays authored by Zhang Haiwen and Vijay Sakhuja on China’s and India’s approaches to maritime security, the analysts describe their respective countries’ perceptions of the current global maritime order, their positions on the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the maritime conflicts currently embroiling both states, and the role of the United States in upholding maritime security.

The central point of significance in Zhang’s and Sakhuja’s studies is their agreement that the global maritime system is crucial to the continued prosperity of China and India. Of equal significance is their conviction that UNCLOS remains both the core and the framework of that system and that upholding it is therefore incredibly important for continued stability. The strong convergence on this position indicates that China and India, like many other developing countries, see only benefits in supporting a regime that offers strong national control and jurisdiction over ever-increasing ocean areas, especially those subject to the most intense human use. This expanding jurisdiction over broad expanses of ocean waters—a national enclosure of what was previously treated as the high seas—sets both China and India, along with many other Third World states, apart from traditional maritime powers such as the United States. The latter states instead remain wedded in outlook and practice to the older Grotian tradition of mare liberum, which defends “unfettered access to the open ocean and denie[s] the legitimacy of national claims to broad oceanic expanses.”2

According to Zhang and Sakhuja, China and India both see UNCLOS as codifying, not rejecting, the inheritance of customary international law while also expanding upon it in various significant and welcome ways. In particular, both countries value the fact that UNCLOS expanded states’ jurisdiction over their continental shelves and exclusive economic zones (EEZs), the area over which a state has certain special rights to maritime access and resources. UNCLOS also added new rules about the passage of vessels, including the activities of naval and research ships, in waters where China and India now enjoy jurisdiction.

Although Zhang and Sakhuja thus agree on China’s and India’s strong affirmation of UNCLOS as the new foundation for the maritime regime, their essays seem to suggest that Beijing and New Delhi emphasize different aspects of it. Zhang highlights China’s focus on the freedom of the seas and notes that China supports UNCLOS because it is viewed as “equitable and reasonable.” In China’s interpretation, UNCLOS’s primary virtue is that it allows all countries to pursue their interests in a fair way. China greatly fears the United States’ ability to interfere in the rights of other states by virtue of the conjunction of its superior might and its rejection of the Chinese interpretation of what UNCLOS permits with respect to national jurisdiction. In contrast, Sakhuja stresses the importance that India places on UNCLOS’s contribution to order and stability, and he argues that Indian concerns about the maritime commons are largely oriented around the mounting security challenges fueled by maritime disputes. Of course, China also appreciates the stability provided by UNCLOS, but the differences in emphasis between the two authors are potentially telling.

These differences notwithstanding, Zhang and Sakhuja both affirm that neither China nor India seeks to find a replacement for UNCLOS as the foundation for the global maritime order. Both view UNCLOS as indispensable and argue that most current maritime challenges arise from the omissions in UNCLOS rather than from its affirmative provisions. For that reason, both China and India believe that any changes to the global maritime order should occur through revisions and additions to the UNCLOS regime. In considering potential changes, both countries support a move toward, in Sakhuja’s words, “maritime multilateralism” in order to better protect their interests.

In this context, Zhang and Sakhuja argue that China and India have developed similar approaches to managing their maritime disputes, both strongly supporting the process of diplomatic negotiation as the primary tool for dispute resolution. However, Beijing and New Delhi also caution that maritime disputes are not simply the result of differing interpretations of UNCLOS and that they often incorporate complicated historical, political, economic, and social factors that make them difficult to settle. Moreover, Zhang argues that UNCLOS cannot be used as a legal foundation to make new claims over territorial sovereignty since it only applies to maritime boundaries. In other words, a state’s territorial claims predetermine what UNCLOS may ratify, and the new jurisdictions extended by the convention do not permit the assertion of any new territorial claims.

China and India also agree that the use of force is inconsistent with the rules established by UNCLOS. As Zhang writes, “all the rights endowed by UNCLOS are on the basis of . . . peaceful purposes. Therefore, the exercise of the rights endowed by UNCLOS . . . must be done in a peaceful way.” However, both Zhang and Sakhuja note that while force may be inappropriate to protect UNCLOS-derived rights, China and India reserve the right to use force to protect their territorial sovereignty, including their ownership of any islands that are the center of maritime disputes. UNCLOS does not override this basic right.

While both authors argue that their countries support diplomatic negotiations as the primary tool for resolving maritime disputes, there appears to be some distance between them on the issue of alternatives to diplomacy. In China’s case, Zhang does not proffer a substitute solution and ignores the possibility of multilateral or international adjudication other than to note that China may find collaborative, multilateral efforts appropriate in some areas of nontraditional maritime security. This suggests that, consistent with China’s current approach to the disputes in the East and South China Seas, Beijing is willing to not press its claims to permit either joint exploration or exploitation of the resources at issue among the disputants. But as it does so, it retains the right to employ force if necessary to resolve the elements of contested sovereignty that may be inherent in the quarrel. In contrast, Sakhuja argues that India enthusiastically embraces international arbitration under UNCLOS if no resolution through diplomatic negotiation is possible.

The disagreements between China and India extend to their perceptions of the role of the United States in the global maritime order as well. Both Zhang and Sakhuja note that China and India disagree with the U.S. interpretation of UNCLOS. Beijing and New Delhi have different views than Washington about what military activities are permissible in other states’ EEZs, especially on the issues of surveys, probes, and reconnaissance. China and India also look askance at American maritime initiatives that might interfere with their sovereignty or the freedom of the seas.

In addition to the disagreements between China and India vis-à-vis the United States, there are significant differences in the behaviors of the two Asian powers. While China routinely confronts U.S. naval vessels and aircraft operating in its EEZ, India studiously avoids such confrontations. Thus, although the two powers reject the American legal justification for its military operations, their practical responses to these activities are vastly different. This difference can be explained only by the fact that for all their ideational solidarity over UNCLOS, China and India view the role of the United States in the global maritime order through very different lenses.

Zhang writes that Beijing suspects the United States is using its naval power to meddle in China’s territorial and maritime disputes and to infringe upon the UNCLOS-derived rights of all nations. Specifically, China sees the U.S. Navy as “a powerful tool for the United States to pursue American global hegemony and intervene in regional affairs.” Sakhuja, reflecting Indian perspectives about the desirability of an Asian power balance that limits China’s capacity for domination, instead highlights the fact that India has extensively engaged with the U.S. Navy, has a robust program of joint exercises, and is exploring more expansive forms of military-to-military cooperation with U.S. sea services. India believes that the U.S. Navy is providing an important global public good by maintaining maritime order and stability.

Considerations for U.S. Policy
  • Would U.S. ratification of UNCLOS secure Chinese and Indian agreement to the U.S. interpretation of permissible activities in the EEZ?
  • Would U.S. ratification of UNCLOS further accelerate the national enclosure of the oceans in contravention of the long-standing Grotian tradition, and would that be in the American interest?
  • Would the standing American defense of customary international law in the maritime domain have any effectiveness outside of U.S. naval superiority?
  • Can the ideals of unfettered access to the open ocean be sustained with the rise of new naval powers such as China if Beijing backs its jurisdictional claims over its EEZ and territorial waters with force?
  • How can the United States shape Chinese perceptions about the value of the U.S. naval role in providing global public goods?
  • Is it possible that Chinese and Indian views of permissible military actions in the EEZ might change if both states were to move further in the direction of becoming major naval powers?


The second pair of essays in the section on security in the global commons engages issues of space security, a subject of great interest in light of both China’s recent antisatellite tests and the growing international recognition of the importance of space for economic and military activities. The section’s two essays, authored by Shen Dingli and Bharath Gopalaswamy, address China’s and India’s objectives and strategies in space, their perception of the most pressing threats to their space security, their judgments about the militarization of space and the best balance between military and nonmilitary instruments for advancing their space interests, and, finally, their perceptions of the United States as a space power.

Both Shen and Gopalaswamy agree that China and India view space as a critical arena for advancing their economic and national security goals. Consequently, both states are accelerating their space programs, which are in many ways exemplars of national achievement, and both are increasingly devoting resources as well as political and bureaucratic attention to the issue of space security. Shen and Gopalaswamy agree that their countries’ space programs are quite comprehensive, encompassing both the civilian and military dimensions of space technology.

This broad similarity notwithstanding, there are conspicuous differences in the two national programs. The Indian space program has been from its inception an entirely civilian endeavor, and it has only recently been pressed by its national security managers into supporting some military tasks. This reorientation, however, is still extremely modest, and the strategic components of the Indian space program pale in comparison to its emphasis on development. In contrast, China’s space program has been a military effort from the start. China does not have a clearly defined civilian space component. Instead, it has seamlessly integrated the civilian and military dimensions of space into one program. Many of its current programs—from space launchers to space systems—serve the operations of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in a way that has no comparable analog in India.

Thus, although Beijing pursues a wide set of objectives that include exploring space and making discoveries for the benefit of humanity as a whole, these activities are natural progressions of various organizational endeavors that have, at their base, a strong military complexion. India’s space organization, in contrast, is still fundamentally focused on exploiting space for peaceful purposes through the development of various space systems for communications, remote sensing, meteorology, and space science, with a newer and more limited set of national security objectives now embedded in the larger civilian effort. Gopalaswamy identifies these narrower objectives as focused on providing support capabilities for the military, countering China’s burgeoning ASAT program, developing an independent space situational awareness program to counter the threat posed by space debris, and debating an International Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities for activities in space.

As Shen and Gopalaswamy note, these broad differences in orientation are reflected in the fundamentally divergent approaches that China and India have pursued toward their strategic objectives in space. Shen stresses the Chinese government’s involvement in promoting space research and exploration and suggests that China’s central-planning approach has allowed it to advance quickly in terms of space-technology development. In general, China appears willing to pursue many different technological avenues in the course of its research and development process—an approach that takes advantage of the country’s growing wealth and national resources. Additionally, Beijing has tested many weapons systems that have explicitly counterspace functions—the 2007 antisatellite test being the most conspicuous example—which again indicates a predominantly military space program.

China and India view space as a critical arena for advancing their economic and national security goals.

In contrast, Gopalaswamy suggests that India’s government has been both slow to promote space-technology development for national security purposes and hesitant to test and field space weapons. Instead, New Delhi has adopted a wait-and-see approach, settling for creating some retaliatory capabilities but refusing to test or demonstrate them until other states force India’s hand. Moreover, New Delhi has taken a measured and exploratory approach to space-technology development, focusing on a few specific areas rather than advancing its technological capabilities at every level. In part, this is because India’s space industry is smaller than China’s. Both programs are government-directed, but the Indian government lacks the resources available to its Chinese counterpart. Thus, unlike China, which has invested in its military space programs across the board, India has specifically prioritized improving mainly its space imagery and surveillance, position and navigation, and communication systems.

All this suggests that although both China and India remain opposed to the militarization of space and have strongly advocated the use of space for exclusively peaceful ends, neither country is optimistic about preventing such a development and both are engaged in exactly those activities normally associated with militarization. Shen and Gopalaswamy acknowledge that evolving strategic circumstances may compel their countries to protect their interests by increasingly relying on military instruments, but both disavow any interest in starting an arms race in space.

But while China and India contend that any militarization will be in response to threats posed by others, they disagree sharply on the sources of those threats. Shen argues that the greatest threat to China emerges from U.S. space dominance because it upsets the balance of power in outer space, thereby affecting the terrestrial power balance as well. Gopalaswamy, in turn, cites both the generic dangers posed by the presence of debris in space and the specific challenge of China’s counterspace activities as the biggest threats to India’s space security. He argues that China’s antisatellite test was the primary catalyst for the weaponization of India’s space program. He notes that the Chinese test caught India off guard and precipitated a debate on space security as New Delhi took notice of its dependence on increasingly vulnerable assets in space.

Shen and Gopalaswamy both contend that their countries have stressed the development of an international space regime that incorporates the use of multilateral forums as part of their efforts to deal with the dangers associated with the ongoing militarization of space. Both countries, however, are skeptical about these organizations’ chances of success, and they have accordingly also pursued bilateral and regional options. Ultimately, though, Beijing and New Delhi believe that only unilateral actions can adequately protect their security.

Finally, there are revealing differences in Chinese and Indian attitudes toward U.S. space superiority. According to Shen and Gopalaswamy, both China and India acknowledge, in Shen’s phrase, the “technological sophistication” of the United States in space. Beijing and New Delhi hope to cooperate with Washington to maximize mutual commercial and technological gains while simultaneously tamping down security competition. But both Asian countries are skeptical about the extent of possible cooperation. Their reasons for this skepticism, however, vary greatly. Shen states plainly that China “could not live with space dominance by America.” Beijing is concerned about competing militarily with Washington in space, but it fears American space hegemony even more than that competition. Gopalaswamy argues that India is suspicious of cooperating with the United States not because of any geopolitical rivalry but “due to the legacy of American technological sanctions against Indian entities.” In other words, New Delhi does not see U.S. space dominance as an inherent threat but is instead concerned about the consequences of becoming too dependent on the United States given its fickle attitudes toward friendship with India.

Considerations for U.S. Policy
  • How can the United States maintain its space dominance without provoking continued Chinese efforts at neutralizing those advantages?
  • How can Chinese counterspace investments be neutralized so as to prevent other Asian states, such as India, from developing unilateral solutions aimed at addressing the Chinese threat?
  • How can the United States garner support for a code of conduct in space if such an instrument promises to be ineffective in protecting space systems when they are likely to be most vulnerable—during a conflict?
  • How can the United States pursue cooperation with China in space when Beijing views Washington’s space dominance as its most significant threat?


The final pair of essays in the section on security challenges in the global commons focuses on cybersecurity, perhaps the most pernicious problem of the contemporary age given the ubiquity of computer connectivity, the high level of network integration that ties together all the key sectors of the modern economy, and the inherent difficulties in detecting, attributing, and neutralizing cyberattacks. The significance of these problems acquires added impetus because of the pervasive evidence that China is one of the few countries that has a highly dedicated, state-supported “cybercorps” of civilian and military specialists focusing on what the PLA calls its Integrated Network Electronic Warfare strategy. These two essays, authored by Tang Lan and Subimal Bhattacharjee, detail China’s and India’s approaches to cybersecurity, their assessment of a desirable cybersecurity regime, their commitment to Internet freedom, and their views on cyberattacks and espionage in cyberspace as legitimate tools of warfare.

Not surprisingly given China’s rise as a major industrial entity and India’s emergence as an information-technology powerhouse, Tang and Bhattacharjee both affirm that China and India have steadily growing cyberspace programs that are of mounting importance to their national economies. As Tang puts it, cyberspace is “the central nervous system of China,” and Bhattacharjee argues the same is true of India. Unfortunately, the increasing importance of cyberspace has been accompanied by an increasing number of threats against it in both countries. Tang lists four types of cyberthreats, all of which Bhattacharjee echoes—hacking, illegal online activities, cyberterrorism, and the militarization of cyberspace. In addition, both China and India confront actions in cyberspace that threaten their political stability, thus leading both to expansively treat such activities as cyberattacks.

In this environment, China and India have increasingly prioritized cybersecurity, albeit in fits and starts. Both countries have worked hard to first establish and then to fine-tune a legal regime that adequately addresses cybercrimes. Both have also struggled to manage a multi-actor governmental system in which different agencies have different cybersecurity responsibilities and powers—a system not entirely different from that of United States—and have actively cooperated in bilateral and multilateral cybersecurity efforts with other countries. Finally, both China and India have recognized the importance of public-private partnerships in overcoming national cybersecurity challenges, a critical step forward for countries with large economies and many major private enterprises.

Tang and Bhattacharjee, however, perceive differences in China’s and India’s views on the role of industry in cyberspace. China has approached the issue of cybersecurity by linking government, industry, nongovernmental organizations, and individuals. It has encouraged industry to work toward national technological autonomy to prevent China from depending on the technology of foreign powers and thus being open to sabotage.

In China, industry works closely with regulators and often self-regulates, but in India, private actors generally work at the behest of the government rather than independently. Bhattacharjee does not mention any efforts toward technological autonomy. Perhaps the only exceptions are current Indian efforts in the telecommunications sector. New Delhi, fearful of Trojan horse technologies that could be deployed by Chinese telecommunications giants like Huawei, has developed a national strategy that requires key hardware items to be manufactured locally and incorporated exclusively into telecommunications infrastructure, particularly in components such as routers, switches, and exchanges.

Although such unilateral efforts to protect cyberspace are certain to become more common in both countries, Tang and Bhattacharjee agree that China and India recognize both the difficulty and the necessity of broader international cooperation in this area. Beijing and New Delhi are well aware that there are major disagreements between states with respect to the “perceptions of cyberthreats and priorities in addressing them,” as Tang says. These divergences are compounded by differing legal systems, law enforcement capabilities, and stages of development. Nevertheless, China and India both recognize that the transnational nature of cyberspace means that states should have common objectives.

According to Tang and Bhattacharjee, this recognition should lead to the creation of a robust cybersecurity regime. Since both countries view cyberspace, in Bhattacharjee’s words, as a “global public good,” the authors believe that formal regulation under the auspices of the UN and the creation of new multilateral treaties to govern the system is called for. This new regime should be informed by the UN Charter and the laws of armed conflict, and it should respect state sovereignty and the necessity of resolving international disputes through peaceful means. States should complement these official efforts through multilateral cooperation and initiatives to create mutual trust in cyberspace.

While these objectives are indeed laudable, it is not clear from these analyses how China and India would expect a legal regime to deter the illegitimate actions of private actors (or private actors clandestinely supported by states) when attribution is difficult and time-consuming. A legal regime may create definitions of unacceptable behavior, but whether it could effectively deter or penalize misuses of cyberspace is highly questionable in the absence of a strong supranational authority, which China and India are unlikely to support.

It is striking that both Tang and Bhattacharjee use similar language to describe China’s and India’s commitments to Internet freedom. Tang declares that China values an open Internet but recognizes that complete freedom is impossible whether online or offline. Bhattacharjee agrees, saying that while India is constitutionally committed to the freedom of speech and expression, that freedom is not unlimited and must be balanced against other concerns, including national security. Tang further argues that freedom should not be absolute and that the government should be able to fulfill its obligations as a regulator as long as Internet policy is lawful and in the interest of most Chinese citizens. Bhattacharjee echoes this attitude and avers that online content can be regulated through all means by which freedom of speech and expression would be regulated in the offline world.

But Bhattacharjee notes that New Delhi’s moves toward constraining online freedom of speech and expression have been confronted by public and widespread domestic pushback, the like of which has not been seen in China. This is not surprising given India’s loud and feisty democracy and the fact that such governmental actions run counter to the constitutional protections offered to free expression in India. Additionally, some Indians have resisted New Delhi’s advocacy of a UN body to regulate the Internet, critically noting that this position puts India on the same side as “countries like China, which stand in the way of Internet freedom.”

Finally, Tang and Bhattacharjee agree that cyberwarfare and espionage conducted in cyberspace are likely to be used by states in the future and that such a development—while of concern—is not illegal under international law. China and India disavow the use of surrogates in cyberspace or nationalist hackers as means of cyberwarfare, noting that they contravene the international conventions on war. However, both authors imply that China and India will soon develop offensive capabilities in this area (if they are not doing so already) precisely because many elements that would otherwise help deter such development—including the clarity and speed of attribution as well as the certitude of a devastating response—remain unclear.

The two essays also suggest that China and India differ somewhat when it comes to taking responsibility for attacks that emanate from within their borders. Tang argues that it is “unfair and unrealistic” to ask states to take responsibility for any attack that originates inside their territory. Bhattacharjee does not explicitly disagree, but he notes that India seems poised to sign an agreement that “mentions the duty of states to prevent their territories from being used by non-state actors to conduct cyberattacks against other states.”

Considerations for U.S. Policy
  • Is it possible to develop and secure consent for a universal cyberregime that affirms the responsibility of states with respect to cyberattacks originating from their territories?
  • How can such a regime effectively balance the security of cyberspace with individual freedoms?
  • Is there a role for deterrence in ensuring cybersecurity, or are the only viable mechanisms layered defenses in cyberspace?
  • How can private and public actors, both nationally and internationally, be integrated to deal with common cyberspace challenges across national boundaries?



The fourth section of this volume deals with two issues that would traditionally be treated as outside the realm of “high politics” but that have recently assumed enormous significance not only for China’s and India’s economic growth but also for general international stability. The first pair of papers in this section focuses on energy security, a subject of importance for any economy and especially for those growing at a particularly rapid rate. The question of whether China’s and India’s reliance on the global market strains existing supplies of energy is an important one, but what is perhaps even more noteworthy is whether their use of state instruments distorts the operations of global energy markets in some way. The two essays addressing these issues are authored by Zha Daojiong and Sunjoy Joshi on China and India, respectively. The authors address critical topics such as their countries’ perceptions of their current and prospective energy security trends, strategies for ensuring energy security, the role of their national energy companies (NECs) in the context of their participation in international markets, and the utility of military instruments in advancing energy security.

Zha’s and Joshi’s contributions converge in their broad assessments of energy security trends in China and India, and the authors agree that their respective nations will experience high and rising rates of energy consumption over the next several decades. Both China and India rely heavily on coal, and this reliance—despite its deleterious environmental impact—is unlikely to decrease substantially in either country. They are also optimistic about making use of their domestic shale-gas reserves in light of recent technological advances, but they remain unsure about whether they have the ability—for technological, political, and regulatory reasons—to access these reserves in the near future.

While both China and India will use more and more energy, Zha and Joshi note the differences in their country’s abilities to indigenously meet their increasing energy needs. Zha observes that China is largely self-sufficient in all energy sources save oil and that its dependence on foreign sources of energy will largely be limited to this sphere. In contrast, Joshi notes that India already depends heavily on foreign sources of oil, coal, and natural gas and that this dependence is likely to intensify in the future. This comparatively greater dependence on global sources of energy will have consequences for India’s geopolitical autonomy.

The Chinese and Indian presence in foreign energy markets will remain a fact of life for the foreseeable future.

Given the rising demand for energy in both countries, it is not surprising that China’s and India’s energy security objectives are similar—but there are important differences in accentuation. Zha declares that China has strongly emphasized expanding indigenous sources of energy in accordance with its “ideological preference for self-reliance.” In other words, China has particularly concerned itself with the sources of supply. India’s Planning Commission, on the other hand, defines India’s energy security goal as seeking to “supply lifeline energy to all citizens irrespective of their ability to pay for it as well as meet their effective demand for safe and convenient energy to satisfy their various needs at competitive prices.” The pressures of Indian democracy and the objectives of its developmental state are clearly on display here, suggesting that India’s primary concern is ensuring universal access qualified somewhat by price. Obviously, issues of access, source, and price are all intimately connected. But the different focuses in China and India highlight important dissimilarities in underlying philosophy that emerge from the two countries’ varying stages of development and differing regime types.

These differences notwithstanding, Zha and Joshi argue that China’s and India’s central governments have been caught in a whirlwind of competing and varying objectives and strategies. For instance, Joshi notes that the “contradictory pulls of affordability and competitive pricing” have created an energy security objective marked by “conflicting demands,” a challenge Zha says also pertains to China (though perhaps not in equal degree). At a broad level, though, China and India are united in their desire to reliably access energy at affordable prices.

In their effort to achieve this goal domestically, both China and India have adopted hybrid, market-state domestic energy systems where market prices are paired with government price controls, regulation, and subsidies. These similar systems, however, have different focuses. China focuses fundamentally on reducing its energy intensity to allow for both continuing economic growth and decreasing energy consumption, and it emphasizes the rapid domestic development of its energy assets. India has also concentrated on the domestic development of energy assets but not at China’s frenetic pace and, most importantly, with less attention paid to energy intensity. Moreover, India’s efforts to expand its domestic energy production base and increase energy efficiency have been mired in the complicated dynamics of its democratic politics.

In both countries the efforts to expand internal energy sources have run up against rising domestic concerns about safety—especially in a democratic polity such as India. Zha and Joshi both note that Japan’s 2011 Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station accident has led to an uptick in concern about nuclear technology in China and India. Both countries emphasize nuclear energy as an important component of energy security, but their central governments have become increasingly wary about approving new projects. India has even seen “direct civil action” and violent protests against nuclear plants (as well as hydropower projects), although similar occurrences do not appear to have broken out in China.

Yet the differences in the two governments’ responses have been remarkable. Beijing has used the rising concerns about nuclear safety to ensure that China’s new nuclear plants conform to the very latest Western designs. Meanwhile India has allowed its compromised nuclear-liability legislation, the culture of secrecy pervading its atomic-energy establishment, and its leisurely decisionmaking to ensure that its dreams of large-scale investments in nuclear energy will take even longer to come to fruition than its leaders originally imagined.

It remains to be seen whether alternatives to nuclear power can assuage public concerns about safety while simultaneously providing the massive increases in baseload power that are needed. Both Zha and Joshi indicate, for example, that since shale gas has not yet been well developed in either nation, opposition to the process used to release that gas—hydraulic fracturing or “fracking”—has been muted. But Joshi notes ominously that “any move to induct technologies like fracking” will likely “elicit strong negative responses from local stakeholders” in India.

The quest for energy security inevitably takes both China and India toward international sources and markets. Zha and Joshi affirm that Beijing and New Delhi have internationalized their energy security by actively pursuing foreign sources of energy through their national energy companies. Both countries have balanced a mix of market-based and statist behavior to address their general apprehensions about reliance on foreign markets. Yet according to Zha and Joshi, China and India both have extraordinarily complicated relationships with their NECs. On the one hand, the two states continue to maintain a high degree of control and influence over their NECs through various political and bureaucratic instruments. On the other hand, the NECs are also subject to the concerns and imperatives of other nonstate investors. Partially because of this, Zha and Joshi agree that Chinese and Indian NECs are typically driven by commercial concerns much more than they are by national security interests.

But there is an important difference in how the NECs are situated in each country relative to their parent government. In China, the relationship between the state and the NECs is a close one, and the NECs look to the government for state financing. In Beijing’s view, this financing corrects market biases and allows the NECs to compete more successfully against other established oil companies. In India, however, the NECs are wary of government appropriation and incompetence, which leads them to exploit the rhetoric of national security for protection while also underwriting their preference for overseas investment rather than investments in, as Joshi puts it, the “more risky climes at home.” As a result, Joshi concludes that Indian NECs are often pushed into aggressive behavior abroad that is commercially unwise and to the detriment of overall competition in the energy market.

The two countries also differ when it comes to state political support for NEC deals. While Zha does not explicitly argue that China uses its diplomatic heft to support its NECs’ overseas deals, he does note that China is “caught in a tussle of allegiance between those states that demand diplomatic support . . . and the United States and its political and security allies, which argue that China should be proactive in effecting positive political change.” In contrast, Joshi argues that India’s NECs shun diplomatic support, “largely because oilmen often do not have too much faith in diplomacy and are always wary of commercial details of the deal becoming available to the public, or worse, to competitors.”

The Chinese and Indian presence in foreign energy markets will remain a fact of life for the foreseeable future. To the extent that China and India have invested in foreign energy assets, however, they have often done so primarily in states that enjoy little foreign investment either due to their political pariah status or a risky investment climate. Both Zha and Joshi deny that their countries have sought to lock up energy assets abroad by investing in these states, largely because such a strategy is ineffective thanks to the fungible nature of energy (although Joshi notes that coal equity deals may have been a partial exception in India’s case). China and India have also been more reticent than Western powers to get involved in local governance issues. Zha notes that the “standard Chinese reference to noninterference in another state’s domestic affairs is . . . [a] recognition of the limits of China’s influence,” while Joshi justifies India’s lack of interest in interference by referencing international law, although both countries’ behavior on this score may be changing.

All told, both Zha and Joshi underline their countries’ remarkably “shallow involvement in world energy governance mechanisms,” in Zha’s words, despite China’s and India’s growing shares of world energy consumption. Zha notes that in addition to “the lack of routine contacts,” China often disagrees with these energy governance institutions’ analyses and distrusts their motives. In response to this situation, China has tried to initiate multilateral discussions with all major energy-relevant countries. India has a similar perspective, believing, as Joshi puts it, that “bodies like the IEA [International Energy Agency] need to undergo basic structural changes” to increase the representation of countries like India and China.

On the final issue of the utility of military instruments for energy security, the elements of convergence and divergence between China and India reflect their larger approach to how global-order issues intersect with their geopolitical interests. As Zha and Joshi note, both China and India are concerned about the safety of their energy sea lines of communication, with both analysts stressing their nations’ focus on chokepoints such as the Strait of Hormuz. To combat these perceived insecurities, Zha and Joshi agree that Beijing and New Delhi have committed themselves to international collective-security efforts aimed at redressing specific security threats such as piracy. While both analysts also agree that energy concerns have fueled naval-modernization debates in their countries—Joshi even writes that India’s “growing overseas energy assets” have contributed to the “steady increase in its expeditionary capability”—both states are intensely aware of their significant military shortcomings, which generally preclude the employment of their armed services in unilateral actions aimed at safeguarding their energy assets.

Zha and Joshi advance different reasons for why their respective nations will not use their own military capabilities unilaterally to protect their overseas energy assets. Zha cites the “large gap in capacities on the part of China,” and questions whether even a highly sophisticated military would be effective, citing the historical failures of the U.S. military in seeking to protect its energy assets abroad. In contrast, Joshi argues that India’s reticence is less about opportunity and more about motivation. He notes that the “Indian political leadership has, in general, been risk averse,” and that many doubt whether overseas energy assets should be considered “strategic national investments.”

It should not be surprising that while China and India share concerns about the security of their sea lines of communication, they have divergent views of the role of the United States, and particularly the U.S. Navy, in protecting them. Zha underscores the fact that Chinese analysts are anxious about the leverage of the U.S. Navy and fear that it might blockade China in the event of a conflict. India, on the other hand, is apprehensive about the withdrawal and retrenchment of American naval capabilities, especially as U.S. domestic problems threaten its defense budgets and its larger force structure. Joshi candidly recognizes that New Delhi is perceived to have been “free-riding on U.S. naval forces” and notes that any U.S. withdrawal or reduction in capabilities could increase India’s vulnerability.

Considerations for U.S. Policy
  • Will the United States sustain its historical mission of providing sea-lane security in view of both its own serious budget constraints and its potentially increasing energy independence?
  • Should the United States be concerned about the activities of Chinese and Indian NECs in marginal states that are of modest significance for U.S. policy?
  • Should the United States incorporate China and India into the mechanisms of global energy governance in order to accelerate these nations’ own domestic market reform as a contribution to larger global interests?
  • How can the United States continue to increase its collaboration with India, particularly its navy, to enhance energy security in the Indian Ocean without exacerbating further Sino-Indian or Sino-American security dilemmas?


The last two papers in this volume conclude the discussion of nontraditional security concerns by examining the environmental challenges facing China and India and the countries’ responses. Authored by Zhang Shiqiu and Ligia Noronha, these essays address Chinese and Indian perceptions of national and global environmental challenges, their strategies for dealing with these challenges, the role of international agreements in this context, and how both states seek to balance economic growth with environmental responsibility.

Zhang and Noronha agree that both China and India have encountered severe domestic environmental stress as a result of their national concentration on rapid economic growth. Health and environmental problems are pervasive in China and India, caused by the intense use of resources in production coupled with rising consumption. Among many challenges, both countries see pollution and the deterioration of domestic environmental quality as the greatest immediate threats. Noronha also cites threats to natural resources and global environmental problems as other major challenges in India. And despite some successes in improving the quality of the environment, China and India believe that persistently scare resources, high economic growth, and rapid social development will aggravate these challenges.

National leaders in China and India appreciate these challenges, but according to Zhang and Noronha the level of citizens’ awareness differs from country to country. In China, Zhang argues that “the impacts of pollution on human health are widely recognized, and public debate is growing over the price China has paid for ‘blindly’ pursuing economic growth.” In India, “the links between environmental quality, material use, public health, and quality of life are still not well understood”—although, as Noronha states, “civil society is making growing demands to moderate or alter the strategies and quality of growth to accommodate environmental concerns,” much as in China.

Both China and India have sought to address these challenges through a wide variety of legislation and regulation aimed at ameliorating environmental degradation. In general, it seems that both countries have adopted primarily command-and-control measures, but there has also been a limited movement toward market-based regulation supplemented by a focus on raising public awareness.

Despite these broad resemblances, however, China and India appear to have invested dissimilar amounts of resources in environmental management. China has spent significant sums in an effort to clean up the environment. While Zhang judges that current programs are still insufficient, they nonetheless represent a genuine effort to resolve the problem. China consciously seeks to improve its efficiency, restructure its economy, and change its long-term growth path in order to guarantee its sustainability.

In contrast, India is still vacillating between “green growth strategies” and no strategy at all. Noronha notes that “the political class and the bureaucracy itself increasingly see the environment as a secondary objective to growth, in fact as a threat to growth,” even though civil society is increasingly pushing back. Noronha also warns that environmental challenges may fall even more by the wayside as India’s economic growth slows. To the extent that the government has attempted to address the problem (often as a byproduct of other efforts such as energy security), its writ is frequently ignored at the level of enforcement, meaning that India has a long way to go before it successfully mitigates its environmental threats.

Zhang and Noronha acknowledge that both China and India have tried to strike a balance between economic growth and environmental health by concentrating on areas where the two issues do not conflict. Zhang notes that China has focused on improving its efficiency and promoting “leapfrog development.” Noronha admits that India displays “a clear development bias,” although she claims that many in India would disagree with framing the issue as one involving tradeoffs between growth and environmental health. Despite their best intentions, therefore, both China and India at some level appear to have prioritized economic growth over environmental health.

The Chinese and Indian struggles to manage environmental issues within their countries occur within the context of larger global environmental challenges. Zhang and Noronha identify widespread public awareness in both countries of these transnational environmental problems, especially climate change. But both China and India view this hazard as emerging, in Noronha’s words, from the “excess and unsustainable consumption and lifestyles . . . of the developed world.” Both authors also agree that their countries see these challenges as intensifying in the future.

According to Zhang and Noronha, both China and India believe the best way to deal with the critical challenges facing the global environment is through international negotiations among all states and through the existing institutions of global governance. This will require some series of international agreements, but their character, enforceability, and division of burdens remain issues of great contention. Additionally, neither China nor India has staked out a clear position on whether international environmental agreements should generally entail a high degree of formal obligation, presumably because any position on this question would depend on how the responsibilities were apportioned between developed and developing countries. India, for instance, would balance the loss of sovereignty against the fairness of an agreement in making a decision to sign it.

The discussion in these two papers suggests that China and India diverge over the degree of external authority that is acceptable in international environmental agreements. Zhang argues that China may support an “enforcement mechanism that is managed by an international legal authority or at least guided by meaningful rules to ensure compliance,” giving the example of common accounting practices. In contrast, Noronha notes that India finds the notion of delegating external authority troubling. New Delhi perceives no need for it since “India complies . . . with all the international agreements that it is party to.” India believes that ensuring equity in the governance of any external authority would be problematic and would therefore prefer distributed governance among existing institutions in the UN system. Given the difficulties in reaching an acceptable international consensus on these issues, Zhang and Noronha indicate that China and India do not expect concerted global action to appear for some time and are therefore likely to stay focused on pursuing independent national solutions.

Both China and India believe the best way to deal with the critical challenges facing the global environment is through international negotiations among all states and through the existing institutions of global governance.

This conclusion is reinforced by the position of both countries on any future international climate change agreement. China and India strongly emphasize the importance of historical equity and the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities” (CBDR). The two nations firmly believe that any international climate change agreement should take into account countries’ historical per capita emissions, which would put a high proportion of the burden on the developed world. Similarly, both China and India refuse to take on any onerous responsibility before the developed world acts. For instance, Zhang notes that “if the developed countries are willing to shoulder their responsibilities for their share of historical emissions, China, too, would be morally constrained to directly face its future emissions and try harder to carry out domestic policies for industrial restructuring and upgrade.” Noronha agrees, arguing that there exists an underlying Indian view that “India cannot moderate its growth for the sake of global environmental concerns; rather, the view is that it is India’s turn to grow and it is the duty of the world to create ecological space for that growth.”

Zhang and Noronha concede that China and India will need to undertake serious efforts to curb their emissions but argue that they will do so only after the developed world has committed itself to stringent caps on emissions and in a way that does not hinder development in emerging countries. Both countries also stress the importance of measuring per capita emissions as opposed to national ones, which is unsurprising given their continental sizes. Given the mutual focus on CBDR and the needs of developing countries, China and India both strongly support the continuation of the Kyoto process begun with the Kyoto Protocol and the use of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change for a future global climate agreement. Noronha sums up China and India’s views neatly by noting that “India would consider any reasonable climate change treaty, so long as it is equitable, and does not seek another century of a world divided into rich and poor.”

As Chinese and Indian positions are generally in accord on the issue of managing the environment, it is unsurprising that the two countries have diverged only slightly in their perspectives on past climate change conferences. China may have been slightly more definitive about the outcomes of the 2009 Copenhagen Conference, claiming, in Zhang’s words, that it reflected “the political willingness of all parties to address climate change.” The Conference achieved, Zhang argues, “some consensus among the parties, and . . . [clarified] the direction for future negotiations.” India’s feelings about the results of the conference may have been more mixed, but it does not fundamentally disagree with the Chinese view that the effectiveness of these discussions is open to debate. China criticized the Durban Conference on the same grounds, viewing the outcome as “acceptable but not sufficiently satisfying.”

Considerations for U.S. Policy
  • Is there sufficient negotiating space to craft a binding international agreement that could be acceptable to both the developed and the developing world?
  • Is the solution to managing the environment likely to devolve simply to unilateral measures to reduce emissions on the assumption that the worst burdens of climate change would be borne by the developing states anyway if they chose to make adequate matching contributions?
  • Can both the developed and the developing world be induced to address climate change through more market-oriented solutions that place technology at the center of a strategy that simultaneously enhances economic growth?


A close examination of Chinese and Indian perceptions of different aspects of the global order reveals that the conventional wisdom about a Sino-Indian convergence on transnational issues vis-à-vis the West is considerably exaggerated. The differences between the two Asian giants on bilateral matters are well known, but a careful study of their positions on these major issues leads inevitably to the conclusion that the divide between Beijing and New Delhi may be just as significant on matters of global magnitude. In fact, this study suggests that outside of the international economic system, energy security, and environmental issues, Sino-Indian differences on all other examined subjects—the global order, the nonproliferation system, Asian security, regional stability in southern Asia, and security in the maritime commons, space, and cyberspace—are considerable even though those differences may not always be apparent in public discussions.

Differences in the Chinese and Indian positions sometimes arise from the two countries’ competing visions but more often from their underlying geopolitical rivalry, which appears to be sufficiently deep-rooted so as to prevent the two states from realizing any natural accommodation. To be sure, both sides bend over backward to conceal their differences in public, and both have often struggled to reach some accommodation that might permit occasional practical cooperation. But the differences in national power and performance between the two countries, the seeming disdain with which China treats India, and the deep fears that India harbors about China’s policies and intentions lead to a never-ending contest for securing strategic advantages. And that contest takes on critical significance as both Beijing and New Delhi seek to manipulate their bilateral relationship and ties to Washington and other international capitals for national gain. The ensuing interactions, which implicate both China’s and India’s engagements with one another and their separate affiliations with the United States and others (which, in turn, are conditioned by the interests of Washington and the others), then make for a complex dynamic of cooperation and competition that transcends simple categories like “partnership” or “rivalry.” But the dynamic does not generate the unqualified cooperation that many believe defines the Sino-Indian relationship with respect to global issues.

This reality leads to three important reminders. First, despite the superficial convergence between China and India on many global issues, there are deeper disagreements that—though sometimes subtle (especially when compared to the differences in Chinese and Indian views on the United States)—are nevertheless likely to preclude the development of a meaningful partnership between Beijing and New Delhi.

Second, the disagreements among China, India, and the United States on many global issues are often rooted in, and reinforced by, structural constraints that are significant enough not only to prevent a meaningful resolution of many transnational problems but also to generate potentially pernicious consequences for both the global order and individual states. A possible exception to this generalization might be the international economy, where the interests of all three powers may align on many of the major issues.

Third, in contrast to the global issues discussed in this volume—where there is apparent convergence between China and India even if the same is not reflected in the details—the bilateral problems that plague the Sino-Indian relationship are so serious that even their outwardly optimistic and polite rhetoric cannot mask their underlying suspicions and corrosive rivalry. This security dilemma, in turn, frustrates whatever possibilities may otherwise have opened up for bilateral cooperation on global issues. The problems inherent in this complicated interaction suggest that a better understanding of the Sino-Indian rivalry remains the critical research task for the future.

Download the rest of the chapters in the full report.


1 Johannes Dragsbaek Schmidt, “India and China in Comparative Perspective—Emerging Asian and Global Powers,” paper presented at the Madras Institute of Development Studies, Chennai, India, November 1, 2011, 5.

2 Wayne S. Ball, “The Old Grey Mare, National Enclosure of the Oceans,” Ocean Development & International Law, 27 (1996): 100.