New Delhi and Beijing have taken some important steps to not just reduce tensions, but to find common ground in new areas, post Wuhan Summit in 2018. There has been an emphasis on reducing the trade deficit on the Indian side and New Delhi has continuously been urging China to open its pharmaceutical and information technology (IT) sectors.
In the IT sector, some important steps have been taken. First, NASSCOM (National Association of Software and Services Company, India) set up Information Technology Corridors in Guiyang and Xuzhou in May 2018 and March 2019 respectively. A corridor was also set up in Dalian in December 2017.
One of the main aims of these corridors is to connect Indian and Chinese companies through the Digital Collaborative Opportunities Plaza (SIDCOP) platform. The platform seeks to help Indian and Chinese IT companies in finding local partners by addressing the language barrier. Through the software, Chinese companies can feed their requirements in Mandarin, and these will be automatically translated into English. Indian companies can fill in their requirements in English, and these will be translated into Mandarin. IT corridors in Dalian and Guiyang have already created significant business opportunities for both sides.
Only recently, in May 2019, a Sino-Indian IT and DT Industry Cooperation Forum was held on the side lines of the International Big Data Industry Expo with a view of giving a boost to IT linkages between both countries.
While each corridor has its own objectives, the Guiyang corridor (inaugurated a month after the Wuhan Summit) seeks to facilitate cooperation in big data. Guizhou province (Guiyang is the capital city of Guizhou) is being promoted as a data hub by the Chinese government. The province is home to a number of big internet companies such as Huawei, Alibaba, Apple and Qualcomm.
The Guizhou government has set a target of increasing the added value of the digital economy against the overall value of the province to over 30 percent by 2022. Some of the steps taken include setting up the first national big data comprehensive pilot areas in China, framing a local law for big data and providing logistical support to IT companies such as free space.
Guizhou is also important because Chinese officials are realizing the potential synergies between Guizhou and India. In 2015, during Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s China visit, an MOU was signed between NIIT (National Institute of Information Technology, India), a skills and talent development company, and the Guizhou provincial government. He also inaugurated a training institute. This institute was set up with the aim of providing manpower (including university graduates, working professionals and government officials) for the big data center set up by Guizhou Province. While NIIT entered into agreements with the Guiyang Municipal Government and Guizhou Professional College of Electronics in Gui’An New District in May 2016, logistical support such as the building and funding for the institute were provided by the Guizhou government. In 2017, this center became functional.
Guizhou province is also seeking to strengthen ties with the Southern Indian state of Karnataka (also dubbed as India’s Silicon Valley). Efforts are being made to increase air connectivity between Guiyang and Bengaluru, the capital city of Karnataka, as well as Delhi. In 2018, a conference titled “Colorful Guizhou” to showcase the province’s strengths, especially in the sphere of IT, was held in Bengaluru. A Chinese delegation led by Mu Degui, Member of the Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China’s Guizhou Provincial Committee met with senior officials of the Karnataka state government including Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy.
There will of course be impediments to cooperation in IT, given that it is a sensitive area. It remains to be seen if China is willing to open up its IT sector and its doors to Indian IT professionals.
Recently, an article in the Global Times makes an interesting point that China is open to IT professionals and Guizhou can take the lead. The article refers to H1 B regulations introduced by the US’ Trump administration, and how it has impacted IT professionals. The number of H1-B visas issued in 2018 was 10 percent lesser than in 2017. The article also refers to the quality of life in Guizhou and attractive compensation.
Cooperation between Guizhou and India in the sphere of IT underscore a number of points.
First, with US becoming more insular, India and China will need to significantly re-orient their economic ties. One of the reasons for both countries adopting a more nuanced position on economic issues is the tariffs imposed by US President Donald Trump. This has forced both sides to adopt a more innovative approach towards their bilateral relationship and examine new synergies – much to the chagrin of the naysayers. IT is one of them. Both sides can deepen their cooperation in other areas, such as agriculture, which are important for both countries.
Second, sub-national links between China and India can play an important role in numerous areas. The India-China Forum of State/Provincial Leaders 2015 was launched with this purpose, and it is important that linkages are developed between more and more Chinese provinces and states. It is also important to tap different areas of cooperation to give a fillip to greater people to people cooperation and deeper linkages between researchers from both countries. Both Indian states and Chinese provinces need to make more of an effort in carefully identifying counterparts with whom genuine synergies exist. Both sides should make better use of Sister City and Sister Province linkages and further expand them. In the case of the US-China relationship, these links have played a crucial role.
Third, there is scope for more Indian students choosing China as a destination for education. A number of Chinese institutions have been ranked exceedingly high in the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) Rankings 2020. Tsinghua was ranked at number 15, Beijing University was ranked at 22.
Already, China is a preferred destination for Indian students in medicine (due to the fact that degrees are much more reasonable in other countries). In 2018, well over 21,000 Indian students were studying in China. With career opportunities for students going to western countries being impacted and China willing to open its doors to Indian professionals albeit in an incremental manner, Indian students should not be closed to these courses. Universities in both countries should also try to enhance academic exchanges in areas related to science and technology, and also encourage joint research and projects.
India-China relationship needs to focus on cooperation in new areas such as IT since this would benefit both sides economically. There will of course be impediments to cooperation in IT, given that it is a sensitive area. It remains to be seen if China is willing to open up its IT sector and its doors to Indian IT professionals. It would also be interesting to see how India reacts to China opening its doors to Indian professionals. The cooperation between Guizhou and India in the sphere of IT also highlights the increasingly multi-layered nature of the India-China relationship, where the Indian private sector, chambers of commerce, organisations like NIIT, NASSCOM and local governments on both sides are emerging as important stakeholders in the bilateral relationship.