The India, China battle to eliminate poverty and illiteracy

November 2, 2010

Chris Devonshire-Ellis wrote a convincing piece at China Briefing that India‘s economic growth would speed past China in the near future. 

He says, “It (India’s) growth rate could overtake China’s by 2013… Some economists think India will grow faster than any other large country over the next 25 years.”

However, there are flaws in that opinion.

Once again, the foundation of this prediction is based on India being a democracy “where entrepreneurs are all furiously doing their own thing” while China is a culture of secrecy and censorship. Chris mentions a few of China’s other flaws too, which China is struggling to overcome.

What Chris doesn’t mention is the difference in poverty and illiteracy between India and China.

India and China both became independent about the same time—China in 1949 and India in 1947.  Due to Chairman Mao’s policies, China suffered horribly from 1949 to 1976 and little progress was made.

For China, most of the progress has taken place in the last three decades. India, on the other hand, has had more than 60 years to solve its problems.

Let’s see what each has accomplished.

The World Bank says, “that China’s record of poverty reduction and growth is enviable. Between 1981 and 2004 the fraction of the population consuming less than a dollar-a-day fell from 65% to 10% and more than half a billion people were lifted out of poverty.”

For India, the World Bank says, “poverty remains a major challenge. According to the revised official poverty line, 37.2% of the population (about 410 million people remains poor, making India home to one-third of the World’s poor people.” UNICEF shows the poverty in India to be 42%.

World Bank studies also established the direct and functional relationship between literacy and productivity on the one hand and literacy and the overall quality of human life on the other.

India’s literacy rate was about 12% when the British left in 1947. Today, literacy is 68%.

In China, literacy is more than 93% with a goal to reach 99% in the next few years.

This means that India has about 800 million literate people competing with 1.2 billion in China.

As for India succeeding, MeriNews.com says, “At a time when we (India) are poised on the threshold of becoming a superpower, the rampant malnutrition and prevalence of anemic children and women to the extent of 48 per cent of the population is a definitive indicator that we have failed as a democracy in ensuring the fundamental requirements of our citizens.”

It appears that China—with its censorship, secrecy and socialist government—has done a much better job of taking care of its citizens.

See the other posts on this topic at India Falling Short and Comparing India and China’s Economic Engines

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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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