China fact of the day – and more on the India/China comparison

“In the US, there are nine cities with more than 1m inhabitants. In China, there are 49. You can be travelling across China, arrive in a city that is twice the size of Houston, and think: I’ve never even heard of this place.”

That’s from The Silicon Valley of China by Rob Gifford in the latest issue of Prospect. The volume of fascinating reportage from China is enormous, but there seems to be plenty of room to astound and provoke readers (minor example: the very witty article by Peter Hessler on driving in China in the latest issue of The New Yorker – and not available online). I think Gifford’s comparison between India and China was particularly striking. It’s worth reading his lengthy series of comparisons, but I think New Economist was right to single out the following:

In the end though, there is one crucial difference between China and India, and a perfect example of it is coated in black tarmac and runs east and west through Hefei. China is a brutal place to live if you are on the bottom rung, but there is an exit. And, just as important, there is a real possibility of a job at the other end. India’s 1.1bn population is rapidly catching up with China’s 1.3bn. But India has only about 10m manufacturing jobs, compared with about 150m in China. So there are simply more opportunities in China to improve your life. (And I haven’t even mentioned India’s restrictive caste system.) The growing service sector in India—in software development, in call centres and service centres—is great if you are already middle class and speak English. But what about possibilities for the hundreds of millions of illiterate peasants? It seems to me that India is trying to reach modernism without passing through the industrial revolution.

Incidentally, a post on Davos Newbies comparing China and India elicited an unusual number of comments for this blog. The good news is that the two most populous countries in the world are making great strides in bringing hundreds of millions of people out of severe poverty and deprivation. Beside that fact – one of the great accomplishments of the modern-day world – the comparisons seem far less important.

4 thoughts on “China fact of the day – and more on the India/China comparison

  1. Pingback: China and India « The Toynbee convector

  2. Sneha

    i read it…. it was wonderful … i m an architecture student i like to read architecture than designing… i am good at analysing things i would like to know the name of the person who has written this page or any of his email address … i deire to be an critic in future after my graduation… want learn few thins frm the writer of this page!
    thankin you
    waiting for reply

  3. Shantanu Chatterjee

    Let us first understand a few things:People determine what sort of a political system they find themselves in.

    Chinese for all practical purposes are Han Chinese one people one language one race who have effectively swamped the few areas this is not so such as Tibet,Xingiang etc(I am not judging anyone nor am i a human rights campaigner)

    India on the other had is a hugely diversed country of literally thousands of different cultures,communities,languages etc with not a single group dominant over the other.

    Therefore the only practical solution is a democracy for all its imperfections.

    And let us not forget the enormous suffering the chinese have had to undergo under one party rule remember the ‘cultural revolution’,’great leap forward’,’thousand flowers movement’ etc calamities in which tens of millions chinese needlessly perished.India for all its bumbling has never encontered such problems.

    It is only in the past 20 or so years out of 60 years of independence that China has outshone India economically,in the long run which system proves more enduring and successful only time will tell.

  4. Amlan K. Barua

    I think it is really very difficult to say some thing definitely now. I agree with Mr. Shantanu Chatterjee that only time can be the biggest judge on this issue. But for me, I cannot keep praising Indian Government system just because it is democratic in name. I think it is far more important to have results than the system itself. If Chinese Communism surpasses Indian Democracy towards fulfilling its obligation for its own countrymen then how can we keep criticizing them! Democracy does not mean only freedom of speech. Democracy means higher literacy, less unemployment, proper food, shelter and clothing for common men. Where are we regarding these issues? Are we better than China, remembering our journey started together? As Indians we have to admit that right now our democracy is not delivering as much as it promises on papers. We need changes in this system to bring out its best, perhaps then we can compare with China. As for the question of Han race, almost 90 percent of Chinese people belong to that. Till date no system has been proven to be full-proof for minorities. We can think of Christians, Tribesmen in our own country.
    In short I am not criticizing my country, I believe we have every element for becoming a driving force, probably we lack planning. I hope we will be able get rid of problems and emerge stronger in coming days.


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