Indeed, the Western powers changed China, and Westernised Japan unleashed unspeakable violence on it. Indians were complicit to some of that violence, particularly in the Opium War, when Indian merchants financed some of the gunboats and profited from it, and the Indian soldiers manned the invading army. The Chinese developed the historic impression of Indians as a subject nation from the Indian coolies and policemen ubiquitous in the British concessions in Shanghai and Canton, something that the newly nationalist Chinese treated as an abomination. But, all this, all the competition, abhorrence, hatred of one another, were framed in the zero-sum ideas of western power struggle, the exclusive concepts of European inspired nationalism. The ideas of being exclusively Chinese or being proudly Indian are, paradoxically, neither Chinese nor Indian.
So, onto the future, one that is supposedly going to be Indian or Chinese future, why must one think in terms of those exclusion-centric nationalist terms? It may be the only concepts we have right now, but is it not a contradiction of terms if we think the Asian leadership will come within the bounds of an European idea? And, why must future be shaped just like our past, with two preeminent nations locked in a zero-sum competition for resources and influences?
This is not to deny the reality of national competition, but to understand the nature of such competition, a dynamic defined by our current structures of power and vested interests. Future does not become one till we continue to operate with our old, tired assumptions, till we are able to imagine anew. The point that India and China will lead the world with the old ways of doing things is basically hoping that India and China would never lead the world. This is something that the Indian and the Chinese must think about, and re-imagine. They must find their own principles to organise the world, the brave new world that most of the humanity hope to live in one day.