On October 13, I posted Comparing India and China’s Economic Engines, which referred to a flawed opinion piece in The Economist predicting that the future economic growth of India would eventually surpass China.
I felt that The Economist’s opinion was flawed because it was based primarily on a multi-party democracy being superior to the one-party republic in China.
However, reading that issue of The Economist painted a grim picture for India. It is as if The Economist were promising that India was going to sprout wings and fly – then the piece goes into a long list of facts that prove it cannot happen anytime soon.
The China Law Blog chastised me for being unfair to India. The Blog said, “that he wanted me to provide a super-quick summary of The Economist cover story comparing India with China, but it (I) did not,” which was correct.
In fact, I don’t see how I could have quickly summarized the complexity of India’s economy.
To create an in-depth profile of China, I’ve written hundreds of posts. To talk about the reason India’s economy will not surpass China for a long time led to this post, which may be the longest single post I’ve written.
Sorry, it isn’t a super-quick summary. At thirteen hundred words, it’s just quick.
Next, Manjeet Pavarti challenged my opinion in a comment to the post.
It is obvious that Pavarti must be a nationalist who loves his country—an admirable trait except when a patriot is misguided and possibly misinformed.
In Pavarti’s last comment of October 16 at 01:33, he challenged my sources—a photojournalist (Tom Carter) with extensive experience traveling in China and India, and my use of evidence from The Economist.
To correct the shortcomings of the first post on this topic, I talked to Gurnam S. Brard, the author of East of Indus, My Memoires of Old Punjab. He agreed with my opinion and said there are many in India like Pavarti that refuse to see the problems that hold India back from achieving its potential.
I also talked to Alon Shalev, author of The Accidental Activist. Shalev told me of his extensive trip through India with his wife and his impressions were the same as Tom Carter and Gurnam Brard.
Next, is Foreign Policy magazine’s Prime Numbers, Mega Cities, where there are no opinions—just facts. I’m going to list “three” that are roadblocks to India future economic growth.
WATER — From National Geographic we have Mumbai’s Shadow City by Mark Jacobson—a slum holding 12 million people, who live in the middle of India’s financial capital.
Then there is Delhi with 17.3 million residents. One third of the city’s residents have little access to clean water. See Life in the Slums of Delhi, India
Foreign Policy magazine says, “In India, service delivery (of fresh water) will fall woefully short of demand in coming years across most urban infrastructure sectors.”
China, on the other hand, has long-term infrastructure projects and is drilling the world’s longest tunnel to carry water under hundreds of miles of mountains to reach Manchuria in the northeast from the Yangtze River.
Then in Tibet, China is building reservoirs to catch water from glaciers that are melting due to global warming while building villages to relocate Tibetan nomads who discover that the high altitude grasslands they once depended on to feed their herds has dried up and turned to desert due to lack of rainfall.
LITERACY — For a republic or democracy to thrive and survive the population must be literate to understand the issues and support a complex modern society.
However, only 66% of India’s 1.2 billion people are considered literate—that’s more than four hundred million people who cannot read.
In China, literacy is 93.3% up from 20% in 1978.
“Prior to 1978 … Adult literacy was given first priority in literacy campaigns designed to ‘sweep away illiteracy’ (saochu wenmang). Because 80% of adults were illiterate, they were targeted as crucial for securing new China’s economic security.”
It may sound cliché, but reading was (and continues to be) power, and leaders knew that the literate could have considerable influence.” Source: China Philanthropy
The World Illiteracy Map says, “Illiteracy is one of the major hindrances that come in the way of economic growth. Literate manpower helps a country in developing.”
POVERTY & THE MAOIST REVOLT – Foreign Policy magazine reports that rural poverty in India is turning a Communist Revolt in to a raging resource war. “For India this is no longer rural unrest, but a full-fledged guerrilla war.”
“Economic liberalization has not even nudged the lives of the country’s bottom 200 million people. India is now one of the most economically stratified societies on the planet… The number of people going hungry in India hasn’t budged in 20 years.…
“New Delhi, Mumbai, and Bangalore now boast gleaming glass-and steel IT centers and huge engineering projects. But India’s vaster hinterland remains dirt poor—”
China, on the other hand, has managed to contain the Falun Gong problem and the Tibetan and Islamic separatists over the objections of Western human rights activists that cannot stand how China manages unrest.
Due to what many in the West would call brutal measures, harmony and economic progress continue as planned for the vast majority of Chinese.
In addition, in rural China, “Living standards soared in the early 1980s—average incomes doubled in both the cities and the countryside, while there was a boom in both food consumption and the availability of consumer goods.” Source: Socialist Review Index.org.uk
“Growth in (China’s) peasant income, which had reached a rate of 15.2% a year from 1978 to 1984, dropped to 2.8% a year from 1986 to 1991. Some recovery occurred in the early 1990s, but stagnation of rural incomes marked the latter part of the decade.” Source: Asia Times
In fact, the last five-year plan extends electricity to rural China and subsidizes the cost of appliances for rural villages once the electricity is turned on
Tom Carter, one of my sources for this post, is currently living in a small rural village in the tea-producing region of China near Hangzhou and has internet access from a village of twenty people.
I agree that India has the potential to surpass China, but I doubt that will happen in the next few decades due to the economic long-term problems that have to be overcome.
I don’t know where Manjeet Pavarti lives, but I suspect it isn’t outside of the gleaming glass and steel cites like New Delhi, Mumbai or Bangalore.
People living inside these economic growth bubbles may have no idea how serious it is outside and probably don’t care or India would be dealing with these challenges as China has been doing since Mao died in 1976 when Deng Xiaoping and his supporters ended the Cultural Revolution and rejected Maoism.
India became a democracy in 1947, which means it has had more than sixty years to solve these problems, while China has had less than thirty since 1982 when the Republic got its new constitution.
Isn’t it ironic how the West seldom hears about India’s problems but always hears about every bit of negative news that happens in China.
See Democracy, Deceit and Mob Rule and Two Republics
Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too.
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