President Levin is dashing back from South Asia to attend The Game this year.
Last week he went to visit the historic and economically growing land of India. The question remains: Was President Levin simply seeking to enhance Yale’s presence in a growing country, or is he hedging his bets in what could become the greatest rivalry since Yale and Harvard?
By the numbers, India and China are not so different. They are the two biggest names in Asia. They have similar amounts of wealth and similarly sized populations. China and India house the world’s first- and second-largest populations and have seen dramatic growth in their output in the past decade. They have continued to vie for power and influence in the region, as well as for ever-scarcer natural resources, much like Harvard and Yale — with the world’s two largest private endowments — scramble for top ranking in U.S. News & World Report.
When it comes to matters of style, however, there is a world of difference between China and India. In China, the government is strong. Like Yale, it uses its massive capital reserves to execute large construction projects for the benefit of the larger community. In India, as at Yale, multiculturalism is a central theme. Like choosing from Yale’s 2,000 undergraduate courses, in India, no matter what your religion, linguistic identity or caste, you can probably find a unique path that suits you. Then again, India’s bumpy roads and old buildings might remind you of your last visit to Cambridge, Mass. Or maybe Harvard’s obsessive policing of the tailgate tomorrow might remind you of the extremes to which Chinese government went to secure the Beijing Olympics.
Like Harvard and Yale, China and India have been rivals for hundreds of years. They have gone to war, and they continue to compete in many forms. In addition to their economic competition, China and India compete militarily, too, with nuclear stockpiles. As Harvard and Yale compete for the smaller carbon footprint, China and India are not just competing with nuclear weapons; they are also getting into a space race. Just this week, India landed a space probe on the moon, while China sent its first astronaut into earth orbit this year. Such bold moves are not limited to Asia: Recently Yale recycling distributed bags for mixed paper to every dorm room — an act that could put us ahead in the green race.
Things between China and India can get personal. This summer I observed the way Indian newspapers reported that their own prime minister, Manmohan Singh, had not been invited to the opening ceremonies of the Olympics. While the rivalry between China and India has yet to result in the kinds of t-shirts the Harvard-Yale rivalry has, that’s not to say that some interesting designs could not emerge in the future. Despite the strong feelings between the two countries, maybe we can draw a few lessons from our own rivalry. After all, on Friday night dozens of groups will hold joint Harvard-Yale events in the spirit of revelry, not rivalry. Even though it will have no effect on the spirit that will be shown at The Game on Saturday morning, we all can realize that sometimes our similarities outnumber our differences. While old rivalries die hard, there is still great potential for cooperation between the two countries, especially on issues like natural resources and energy.
The Game means many things to students today. Some see it as a chance for Yale to prove, for a year, it is better than Harvard. For others it is an excuse to wake up at 9 a.m. to tailgate. Regardless of reason, it gives us some limited interaction with the Cantabs. Without the spirit of intercollegiate cooperation, we would never have a reason to visit Cambridge.
Maybe Yale could share this experience with China and India. As a third party, President Levin has the opportunity to help facilitate cooperation between the two powers. Yale cannot single-handedly shape the foreign policies of China and India. But, hey, giving away a few free tickets to The Game never hurt anyone. Next time the president goes abroad to meet with world leaders, let’s invite them to join us at The Game to check out rivalry done right.
Sam Yellen is a senior in Pierson College.