China, India, Pakistan, USA, … relationships with ups and downs lead to long-term policies that make for very interesting geographies of international relations. This is the kind of current geography (and history) that we ought to be studying in our classes.

11 days, 5 nations

At the time of writing this, the US President, Donald Trump is on a trip to the Asia-Pacific region visiting Japan, Philippines, China, South Korea, and Vietnam. Why is this important to the concerned countries and to India?

Donald Trump’s itinerary in Asia. (Source information lost, sorry)
[Accessed: Nov. 2017]

As with so many things in international relations, this has a lot to do with geography!

India & China

In Asia, China is the number one super power – largest population, economy, and military might. With this, it has great ambition to become a rival to the USA globally, not just in Asia. Read the vital statistics of China.

Since 1990, India has been rapidly emerging as a regional power and is now second to China. Here are some statistics to compare the two countries:


Statistic  China
Unemployment 4.5% 3.4%
Number of nuclear warheads 250 90–110
Female-to-male labour force participation ratio 0.84 0.41
Adult literacy (2012) 96.4% 71.2%
Fertility rate (Births per woman as of 2012) 1.7 2.5
Number of Olympic medals at London 2012 88 6
Percentage of parliament that is female 25% 9%
Press freedom index ranking (2014) Higher ranking = less press freedom 175 140
Life expectancy in years (2012) 75 66
Number of babies dying before reaching 28 days of age,
per 1,000 live births per year (2012)
9 31


Compare the population pyramids of the two countries here and consider these questions (all links open in a new tab/window)

  • Which country’s population is likely to grow more in the coming decades?
  • Which country’s population has the larger labour force overall?
  • How do the overall sex ratios of the two countries compare?

While there are many differences between the two countries, India’s power in Asia is expected to rise to challenge China’s position. Consider how the population pyramid of India is likely to contribute to this.

This is disturbing for China.

Worrisome encirclement (Part 1)

In its rivalry with the USA for global power, China is expanding its influence throughout the world with many projects:

China encirclement concerns. Source: Indian Defence Review (2017), 23 May 2017) [Accessed: Nov. 2017]

  • Connecting places across the world with overland and maritime trade links (new versions of the famed Silk Route of olden times);
  • The maritime Silk Route aims to connect places such as Fuzhou on the east coast of China with Jakarta, Colombo, Kolkata, Athens, and all the way to Rotterdam in The Netherlands)


Route of the Yiwu–London freight train.  Source: BBC (2017), 18 January 2017. [ Accessed: Nov. 2017]

  • A railway line that connects Yiwu with London in the UK. (See the map. Click on the image to see a larger version.)
  • Investment in various infrastructure development projects (such as ports in Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Myanmar; railway networks in several African countries, etc.);
  • Building islands in the South China Sea despite protests from other countries (see: “Growing pains”);
  • Building international crude oil and natural gas pipelines; and so on.

If you look at this map, you will find how cleverly this geography is being worked out by China. The net result is, going West from China, it forms several arcs that bring much of Asia and Europe under Chinese influence.

India (as well as USA and several other countries) are nervous about this expanding presence.

Worrisome encirclement (Part 2)

Meanwhile, the USA wants to keep China from becoming more powerful than the USA. To do this, the USA, for its part, is building its own arc by developing and strengthening friendly relations own with

China encircled! (Source: Foreign Policy Research Institute, 2016.) [Accessed: Nov. 2017]

Afghanistan, India, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Philippines, and Japan. Check how many of these countries are on in Donald Trump’s itinerary I mentioned at the beginning of this article!

In your atlas, look up the situation features of all the countries listed in this article. Recall the definition of situation in geography: it’s the way a place (or a country) is connected with other places (or countries).

Next time, we will look at a few of the countries in the USA’s arc, and how India fits into all the goings-on.

Geography at work!

A version of this article appeared in the Deccan Herald Student Edition in November 2017.

Featured image, courtesy: British Broadcasting Corporation.  [Accessed: Nov. 2017]



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