India Falling Short

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 REVOLTForeign 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

“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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5 Responses to India Falling Short

  1. jagavet56 says:

    After reading your blog i truly marvel the amazing brain-washing capabilities of chinese government…. But you fail to realize that command economies work amazingly well by for few years until reaching a saturation point. Then all the hell will broke loose…
    somewhere in ur blog u mentioned that chinese economy has only around 20% debt – but the true story is most of its debts are hiding in the bank balance sheets and local government investment vehicles. If you count everything it will exceed more than 65%. Recently even chinese govt realized this debt and done some chinese magic to cure them. surely the debts will rear its head someday down the road.
    I would like to tell one important difference between china and india. In china the economic growth is one and only due to the government, but in india the economic growth is inspite of the government. As people get literate, they will demand better governance that will further spur economic growth. Thats the essence of democracy – its a slow evolutionary process which cant happen overnight.
    Make no mistake, i truly admire chinese for their hardwork and brain. They truly built a gigantic economy around their core, unique strength of manufacturing capabilities and lifted millions of people out of poverty. But this model worked only until 2007 and masked all its previous malinvestments. But after crisis, what they did is utter foolishness – they not only missed golden chance to build consumer-led economy by taking short term pain but exacerbated the mal-investment binge in unprecedent level which the world has never seen….
    You mentioned that “It’s like a minefield to walk anywhere in an Indian city to avoid stepping in human feces”. Before writing this sentence you should have applied your rational mind and thought, how on earth is it possible for a country to grow GDP 8% for last decade with this shit everywhere in city. But i cant blame u, your obsession with china pollutes your rational mind.
    I am not in the group that india will trump! or china will trump! or US will trump! kind of chanting…. there is space for everyone to grow, problems for everyone to deal and potential for everyone to grow…..

    • jagavet56,

      You write, “i truly marvel the amazing brain-washing capabilities of chinese government…”

      I’m not sure what you mean, but to make it clear, this Blog is not written by the Chinese government or influenced by them. Most of the material in this Blog comes from Western sources such as a few documentaries, news reports by Al Jazeera and a lot of reading of China written by Western experts such as Henry Kissinger’s “On China”.

      Along the way, after discovering China’s history and the path to where China is today, one starts to see the propaganda that appears in the Western media that brainwashes people outside China not to see what really happened and what is happening.

      Don’t get me wrong, China’s government is no saint but no government is a saint and all are corrupted by power eventually as has happened in the US and in India where the corruption is worse than China. Then of course, there is no mention of the US National Debt, corruption of the US federal government, the wars the US has started such as Vietnam and Iraq, and the 2008 global economic crises that originated in the US due to corruption both in the federal government and the private banking industry that led to more than $40 trillion in losses globally and many millions of lost jobs, which says a lot about the way the West runs its economies. The evidence seems to say that the formula for the way the West runs its economies is flawed and China hasn’t had enough time to prove if it’s method of running its economy will be better or worse. We will see that in a few decades.

      In the US, about 9 million jobs were lost due to that financial corruption that burst in 2008, while China suffered about 20 million lost jobs as fallout from the financial crash.

      You make many claims but provide no reliable, reputable sources to support what you say–NONE! As for your claim that China’s national debt is 65%, where are your facts–not claims with only a percentage.

      As for India, I’ve talked to friends that have traveled there extensively besides the information that I link to reliable sources such as National Geographic. You claim India’s GDP was 8%. That growth is based on an economy that is MUCH smaller than China’s. When I compare economies, my figures usually come from the World Bank or another international source and not from China and I provide links. In some cases, my numbers and information come from the CIA Factbook and some information from the US State Department Website.

      As for India’s future, true, once the 400 million illiterates in India (almost 40% of the population) learn to read, that will result in pressure to improve infrastructure, while illiteracy in China is less than 10% and the schools are learning how to teach critical thinking and problem solving skills which resulted in Shanghai students scoring number one in all categories of the 2009 PISA test, which will also result in a movement that will give the people more say in the politics there.

      In fact, there is talk among high-ranking leader in the Chinese Communist Party about bringing democracy to China.

      In 1976 when Mao died, about 80% of China’s population was illiterate. In 35 years, China improved literacy to more than 90% and shrunk illiteracy. The CIA says severe poverty in China is at 2.5% while in India that number is at 38%, India has had since 1947 as a democracy to improve these numbers, and they haven’t moved. In fact, India has the worse poverty on the planet while China has improved poverty more than any country on the earth. China had about 30 years to do that since the 1982 Chinese Constitution was written and became the law of China while India has had sixty-four years and has done little to improve illiteracy or poverty.

      Therefore, I’m wondering what propaganda has influenced your opinions of China.

      After learning what I have about India, the US and China, I prefer to wait and see what happens instead of believing anything anyone says or claims, and what has already happened in the US and India is strong evidence that both of these democracies are seriously flawed and in deeper trouble than China at this time.

      The evidence also says that China’s central government appears to be more concerned with improving the lifestyles of the majority of the people in China than both the US and India for safeguarding the financial futures of their populations.

  2. […] the future as in America’s case regarding the HUGE federal deficit and what I wrote about in India Falling Short, China’s leaders tend to plan long-term goals that benefit the most […]

  3. Lloyd – I haven’t read all the sources that you cite so I apologize if I repeat something already said. Any article or report that tries to squeeze all of India into a generalization or single model is already flawed. India (and probably China) is a continent of very different peoples leading very different lives.

    I traveled around India on public transport with a backpack. I was a guest of untouchables in their village after a restaurant had fired its cook because of threats from religious fundamentalists for hiring an untouchable – and yes I am aware that the caste system was abolished years ago.

    There is no comparison between the lives of these people, those of Delhi, or those who live in Himalayan villages.

    India’s biggest challenge is trying to create a national agenda. I’m not sure it is possible or even desirable.

    Alon Shalev
    Left Coast Voices

    • Thank you, Alon, for mentioning the caste system. I haven’t written about the caste system in India before, yet I am aware of it. I’d love to hear more about the caste system that hasn’t gone away even with laws that forbid its existance and how that may hinder India’s progress. Why is there resistance to change in India?

      However, I’m aware of the resistance to end foot binding in China prior to 1950 when Mao gave his famous speach about women holding up half the sky. The nationalists attempted to do away with foot binding when they ruled China but failed where the Communists under Mao didn’t. Today, women in China have more freedom than during most of China’s history.

      Do you have any idea what India’s government would have to do to end the caste system once and for all?

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