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China and India – an inevitable comparision

May 25, 2007

Most of us know a lot about the west because we have either gone there, have family or friends there – or we’ve seen how the westerners live on celluloid. All of us carry with us strong opinions about the west, either positive or negative.
Few of us know anything about China, except what we read in the media. And most of the writing talks of China’s phenomenal growth and the certainity of it becoming the number one economy by 2050. Well, India is supposed to get into the top 3 too. Thats what makes the comparison between China and India inevitable. The whole world is comparing us. Two over-populated, underdeveloped nations with advanced ancient cultures which had sunk into poverty are now rising like phoenixes. China, the western media has informed us, has beaten us to the game. Calling it underdeveloped today is a misnomer. All the more reason why we need to get a grip on what’s happening in China…an understanding of China can give us a way to forge ahead at a faster rate.
I always had an intense curiosity about China. Was China really going to be the world’s number one economy by 2050? What about the doomsday predictions of China’s government controlled economy? Would China’s prosperity and increasing levels of education automatically lead to political unrest and will this impact the economy adversely? Were the Chinese people as hardworking as they are reputed to be? What about their society, the status of women and children, their happiness levels? I had also heard about an underground movement for democracy…was this leading to a generation of unhappy, suppressed youth? Sure, one reads all kinds of things and sees reams of statistics – but nothing like actually getting the feel of it all. My intense curiosity about China has been satisfied now after my visit there…to some extent.
Over the next month or so I am going to write several articles on China on different aspects…on it’s society, it’s economy, the infrastructure, the food habits of it’s people, it’s politics, health, the shopping, the hotels, the Chinese culture, their dress …and ofcourse the tourism potential. And at every stage I am going to compare the country with India.

Articles on China: What tourists experience in China
Four Chinese Cities: Beijing, Xian, Guilin and Shanghai
The people who live in Chinese cities – the urban chinese
Eating out in China
China’s claim to an Indian province is preposterous
Ex-Governer of Hong Kong (Patten) talks about the future of China ten years after it was handed over to the Chinese.

18 Comments leave one →
  1. May 25, 2007 11:21 am

    Personally I think India is on the right track. China’s infrastructure cannot sustain development because they’re killing their core environment… India has the democratic structures in place which will, eventually, get around to protecting its environment. I’m not talking about Global Warming, I’m talking about clean air, water and soil. Just as a quickie example, the initiatives China is putting in place to clean the air for the Olympics are completely artificial. They’re taking cars off the roads to get the carbon monoxide to drop… but once the cameras are off the cars come back… the same can be said of the country as a whole. It’s being “prettied up” for the Olympics, but there’s still a million (plus) people rotting away in re-education camps and the rural population are still serfs. I’d much rather be an Indian, or living in India, in 2050.

    • windgo permalink
      June 19, 2012 2:27 pm

      Environmental problem is an serious issue in nowaday China indeed, but it is due to the rapid growth of the country. And the CCP had already working on that on the right track, by their record of effiency and reputation to get things done, I think they will finally solve this problem. It improves every year as I saw it, just give them some time and it will not be a big deal.
      For the other comments from you, sir, I had to tell you: you really take too much of the negative propaganda from the bias media. China is not so highly oppressed country as you described, I mean it.
      BTW: the country which have the most citizen in jail is not China, it is USA, just let you know.

      • June 20, 2012 1:47 am

        Actually, chief, that prison stat is rigged. The vast majority of the 1.6 million people in an American prison got there through fair and open trials, with access to lawyers and a Constitution. The 1.3 million people in Chinese prisons got there without all of those messy details.

        In fact, just to let you know, if you include all of the people China holds in “administrative detention”, including China’s “extrajudicial system of re-education through labor, which often singles out political activists who have not committed crimes” (NY Times) China easily tops the prison population of the United States, and even the entire World* in the ‘people behind bars without due process of law’ category.

        If he’s not currently detained, you can ask Ai Weiwei. Or Tibet.

        And China’s method of dealing with pollution, as with every other negative aspect of life there, has always been to make reporting on the conditions illegal:

        China warns foreign embassies publishing smog readings is illegal

        And, while we’re on the topic, the Three Gorges Dam is a crime against humanity.

        *except, of course… maybe, North Korea.

  2. May 25, 2007 12:05 pm

    I have always been fascinated with China. Maybe because the news casts of its thriving eonomy do not match the reports of those that cross the atlantic in the deplorable and inhumane conditions of shipping containers as they flee to the US in search of better living.
    Then I learned that the length and breath of China is not Hong Kong and that it was on;y recently reprised from the hold of the British and returned to the Chinese

  3. Ramesh Natarajan permalink
    May 25, 2007 2:49 pm

    I fully agree with your views. In India, wee have many achievements to be proud of, but to grow further, comparing ourselves with China is inevitable. I often see, the media talk more about the local,regional and national politics and storices, leaving us behind where we stand in the global scenario. As a global indian, i am watching the international economic scenario for long. I have posted few interesting articles on china, comparing with India. Fusions.. views on Economy, India..China

    I look forward to read your articles on this subject.

    Ramesh Natarajan

  4. May 25, 2007 11:53 pm

    Unfortunately i have to tell you Mr feartheseeds , the serfdom has been abandoned for thousands of years in china, the only remains were probably existed in some special areas, at some special time: such as the Eight-flag system by Manchurian during Ching dynasty or tibet before 1951. You can still live in your own illusionary world and feel good about it.

  5. roger permalink
    May 26, 2007 3:51 am

    Both China and India are poor countries that are trying to get rich quick.
    Both are inherently unstable.
    Does anyone think that China can become like the United States when it would require five planet earths to sustain a Chinese level of consumption that is equal to the United States?
    And what about India? 700 million people are desperately poor, and India’s population is young? It would be a surprise if India becomes a superpower. What is more llikely is revolution and war.
    The Non Resident Indians who are so proud of India forget that it is a poor backward country and that the so called economic growth helps just 200 million out a population of 1 billion,

  6. guna sekhar permalink
    July 12, 2007 8:34 pm

    i believe China is already in deep trouble as its growing the economy without any care for the environment. Its already having massive desertification problem, worst air pollution and heavily depends on oil, minerals and steel from abroad.

    The communist government will implode from within as what happened to Soviet Union or there will be a war with Taiwan which it may collide with Japan-USA eventually…..

    Myself from Malaysia – Indian…….

  7. krenim permalink
    July 13, 2007 5:09 pm

    China is actrually far ahead of India on every parameter and will probably stay that way short of something like a war with the US or some thing on that scale.

    Its funny that most speculations on China dominating the world/surpassing the US etc etc comes from non chinese unlike the hype about India.

    China intends to become a developed country by 2080 a very cautious and intelligent goal.India has publicly stated becoming a developed country by 2020 a laughable goal which we all know isn’t possible and those who think it is don’t know what a developed country is.

    China has the ability to rank all international university and has the maturity to state on record that it does not have a single university in the top 50 and needs to take actions to remedy this in the next 30 years again a very impressive account of judgement.Indians think IIT is the best engineering college in the world.
    And most importantly Indians are so touchy when westerners point out glaring inadequacies in their country immediately accusing us of racism/high handedness/arrogance what have you.
    Infact I recal reading somewhere that the economist is racist because it printed a story about beggars in the capital whereas it actually is by most accounts pro indian if anything.

  8. Phantom permalink
    July 13, 2007 11:08 pm

    Ok, obvious feelings of nationalism aside….

    Yup, on many counts, India is way way behind China, in terms of material progress. There are clear logical factors and reasons behind this. It is what it is, no point debating it. China’s economy is more than 3 times that of India (GDP wise), despite her population only being no more than 20% more than India’s.

    But impt thing is….that India’s made a good start, and slowly, things will improve.

    Krenin – whats wrong with having a “laughable” goal, as you call it???? if it is laughable, then let the world laugh at it, who the hell cares. Every indian knows what the deficiencies are in the country…how wouldn’t we, we face them every single day. I agree that we shouldn’t get too sensitive when others point out these defeciencies, in fact, thats the totally wrong approach. If anything, i advocate to all fellow indians, that we shouldn’t take ANY heed of anything derogatory that any westerner has to say about the deficiencies in India….after all, their opinion does NOT matter. They aren’t gonna build our nation, WE are.

    IIT’s being the best engineering uni – well, not really. It hardly produces the level and quality of research and academia as the Ivy’s, Oxbridge and other leading uni’s in the world. However, the success record of many IITians is very laudable, and it is in that quality that the IITs are acknowledged as top uni’s in India. After all, let us not fail to acknowledge that society’s perception of what makes a successful uni is as much dependent on the placement record, commercial/life successes of alumni, as it is on its academic/research output. And in India at least, as well as in the US, IITians have done very well commercially.

    I know for a fact that there are many indians who are mature and realistic about the current and historic state of material affairs in the country, and who DON”T get unnecessarily emotional when westerners point out the glaring inadequacies in the country. At the same time, i also know many westerners who make it a point to ONLY see the inadequacies within India, and that too without keeping in mind the complexities that a country with more than a billion people and a highly diverse cultural/demographical make-up has to face.

    I for one do not think the economist is particularly racist about india. Look, every symbol of journalism is bound to have some bent of thought, some bias towards a paradigm/line of thought. However, I have found the Economist to be relatively even handed about many developing countries. It is many of the american publications on the other hand that tend to be overly US centric and rather emotional about their views, be it positive or negative.

  9. July 14, 2007 7:19 am

    Actually I do care what westerners think…and I agree that there are some who just see the negative side and I don’t like that. And also I think those Indians who do not want to admit anything negative about India are stupid.
    I read each and every issue of The Economist. We subscribe to it. The Economist has little understanding about India. I write letters to them regularly but they don’t publish them. Recently they wrote something abysmally stupid, some sweeping statement about why Indian farmers commit suicide. I sent them a link to my post on the same…
    I may be wrong, but I feel that most of the people who write about India in The Economist are either British Indians, Indian Americans or at least those who have lived for years abroad. I wonder if The Economist would hire a Brit who has lived in India most of his life, or studied in India, or has lived in India a lot to REPORT on Britain. I am not doubting the caliber of the Indians who work there, but certainly to get an indepth understanding of whats happening in a country you need to be brought up here, you need to be a part of it, you need to get the feel of things. After all we are talking of current affairs, not the past! I see a lot of reporters who work for CNN and BBC who report on India, but frankly I feel they do not have a real understanding of India.
    There was a spat some months ago between The Economist and Times of India about some figures that The Economist had put up showing that India is actually not doing well, thats is hype. Well, the Times countered those, figure for figure and although I do not understand the financials, I have greater faith in the Times of India when it comes to reporting on India. We do not have a dearth of people here who understand finance.
    But ofcourse I admire The Economist greatly. I think their writing is wonderful. And many of their articles on India are good (not great).
    About China: China may be ahead of us on almost all counts, but frankly I am glad we are going about it slowly. And most experts on China are perfectly aware why they are ahead…its their political system which I do not want our country to emulate. btw, China lacks the kind of indigenous companies/entrepreneurs that India has…I am sure that this will turn out to be a disadvantage to China in the long run. This is why so many Indians have become CEO’s etc abroad, its our inherent capability which has been developed in a democratic system. Its not an IIM or a Harvard which makes for a brilliant entrepreneur. Look at Bill Gates.

  10. Phantom permalink
    July 14, 2007 11:48 am

    For all the talk about India being more democratic and fre than China etc etc…..I sometimes do feel that we Indians need to step back and truly evaluate the price we pay for that freedom.

    Look, being able to do absolutely anything one wants, might be freedom, but if that means progress is inhibited and made ineffecient, and lifestyle of the people compromised, then whats the point of that freedom. I guaratee you….ask any poor chap in India (any of the 600m+ of them) whether he’d rather have total freedom or a decent standard of living (which might come at the cost of some freedom), and I’m pretty sure the majrity would opt for the latter. Its much easier to romanticise about the notion of freedom once u have food in ur belly and a decent roof over your head.

    Any system needs some order, some focus, some channeling, in order to achieve its goals. Successful corporates and organisations are the ones where each element within the organisation is aligned towards organisational goals, where there is sufficient accountability, where there is overall strategy followed by top-down leadership. Organisations with haphazard policies, loose ambitions, insufficient accountability and an ability to stick to the roadmap, will of course dwindle into mediocrity.

    China may have swung to the other extreme, but there are some lessons to be learnt from her history. In India, we all need to be firmly reminded of what it takes to be a developed nation.

    NRI’s go overseas and are happy to abide by the often strict and inflexible laws of the land – no speeding, no littering, accountability in organisatons etc…..why – cos there is often a penalty assocuated with not following those rules. Does that mean freedome is lacking???? hell no. NRI’s, as well as the other residents in those developed nations, are happy to live with that control structure, as it birngs in an equilibrium.

    So what is wrong if, thorugh the democratic process, the governance imposes fair and just penalties for misbehaviour, for not adhering to the roadmap? Of course, just having the penalties as a constitutional formality is redundant, it needs to be imposed and everyone needs to know it will be imposed. Its sad but true that fear of the punishment is what often motivated humans to NOT fail, as much as the desire to succeed.

    And, on the topic of freedom in India….I question whether there is true freedom in ALLforms and aspects of life, in all strata of society. How many poor people really have freedom to do absolutely anything they want???? If a labourer tries to enter a posh shop or restaurant, he’s shood away. We still have a massive class system, and that will NEVER change cos the middle class and upper class will always want someone to wash their dishes, clean their houses. We are an extremely elitist society. A child born in s slum will probably grow up to become an adult in that slum, and will probably die in a slum. Freedom in theory is useless, one also needs to be in an environment where they can EXERCISE that freedom, and get empowered thorough that freedom to progress themselves.

    Of course, if fredome means, being able to freely take a leak by the open road, then sure, we got freedom….and i myself have enjoyed that freedom often :)……well as a kid anyway 🙂

  11. July 14, 2007 2:29 pm

    Phantom you said:
    //A child born in s slum will probably grow up to become an adult in that slum, and will probably die in a slum//
    this is incorrect in today’s india. It was true 10 years back, not any more. Tthe growth of the middle class itself belies this notion. today the middle class is touching 400 million. ofcourse we have a long way to go…
    Another thing you said:
    //I guaratee you….ask any poor chap in India (any of the 600m+ of them) whether he’d rather have total freedom or a decent standard of living (which might come at the cost of some freedom), and I’m pretty sure the majrity would opt for the latter. Its much easier to romanticise about the notion of freedom once u have food in ur belly and a decent roof over your head.//
    this is also incorrect. freedom is very imp to the average uneducated Indian. The indira gandhi govt, was overthrown because people were forced into family planning methods. as for your suggestion – ask them whether they will have one or the other…in real life one doesn’t have such choices.
    Also your implication that freedom means freedom to break laws is not democracy. The reasons for the inefficiency here is not because of democracy…(otherwise all democratic countries would be inefficient) but because of many complex reasons which I don’t want to go into here, but basicaly years of habit. The way to break this mindset quickly is to become an authoritarian country…but sorry, I prefer it this way. I am sure that we can improve without giving up our system of government.

    You also said:
    //If a labourer tries to enter a posh shop or restaurant, he’s shood away.//
    I don’t quite get that. You mean to say a man should be allowed to walk into a restaurant if he just wants to sightsee? If you are saying that a man dressed poorly cannot walk into a restaurant, this is incorrect, at least in metros. I have seen most shabby looking people in five star hotels, no one shoos them away because its assumed they have money. but yes if you create trouble, however well you are dressed, you are shood away.
    I also did not get your statement:
    //os the middle class and upper class will always want someone to wash their dishes, clean their houses.//
    who doesn’t want this work done if they can afford it? I am quite confused here. Surely the rich in the western world also hire domestic help? Does Paris Hilton do her own dishes for example. Here, because of the sheer numbers of our illiterate population labour is cheap and therefore the middle classes can afford domestic help. This situation is not going to last forever. In another 20-25 years its going to change. In fact its already started. Because of the growing middle class, there are less domestic hlep avaiable and today they have to paid fairly high amoutns in metro cities.

  12. Zi Bin permalink
    April 5, 2010 5:01 pm

    It’s nice to read your articles and all of these comments.
    I’m a chinese and I’ve been to India three years ago. It was a 6 days business trip in India. I visited Delhi and Vadodara.
    I like India very much, the city is not so tidy as BeiJing or Shanghai, and the urban infrastructure is not as good. But the people there are happier. They are very friendly. Waves and smiles everywhere. The people we met may not be rich, but it seems that they are very happy and hopeful. They believe their country will be better soon. That reminds me the status of the people in China twenty years ago. Frankly speaking, nowadays Chinese people are not as hopeful as they used to. Lack of belief is the most severe problem in China. We pursuit the rapid progress in economic so much that we forget why we chase it. We sacrified the enviroment for money. Yes, China have become more wealthy than 20 years ago, but may be we lost more.
    In China, more and more people no longer care about the country’s future, insteadly, they care more about their own future. Too many issues to care about, the education problem, the one-child policy, the medical security, etc.
    I’m glad that here I read so many comments all talking about the future of India, so many people cares about your country and the future. Good for you. I believe there will be a new better India soon.
    You are welcome to email me, hope we could have more deeply communication.

  13. Samir patel permalink
    October 18, 2011 1:24 am

    people of india talking india vl b superpower so they r dreaming india is 200yrs behind, cows buffalo walking on the road people r poor government is corrupt people doesn’t have an house no toilet they r shitting on the railways track.everywhere roming beggars in india. Just saw me 1 city in india like shanghai, toronto, london, johannesburg,Whts wrong wid u guys????

  14. alex teo permalink
    June 24, 2012 11:31 pm

    the only thing i wanna say that i do not think India has handled their environmental issues well ,rivers also very dirty even the largest river, and cannot imagine got dead bodies in the river without actions taken to deal with ..sooo Indians pls do ur job better first then come critisize others.
    Alex Teo from Singapore

  15. Jeff permalink
    August 18, 2013 12:21 pm

    Hahaha, what a difference six years make!

    While China has pulled off a miracle and catapulted herself to become a superpower, India has meanwhile wallowed in her corruption and incompetence.

    The disgraceful preparations for CWG, the corruptions scandals, the 2012 blackouts, the gang rapes, the acid attacks, the floundering economy, the falling rupee, etc. have completely crushed the delusion of India vs. China.

    It’s back to India vs Pakistan, where India truly belongs.


  1. india - » My India, After 10 Years (Part 2)

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