Indeed, its time to stop comparing India and China

Read any news provider, be it a magazine, a newspaper or website, and you can’t escape the periodic ‘India beats China; no wait, that’s China tops India’ rhetoric. The irony, however, is that you don’t see that in either Indian news or the Chinese news with quite the same emphasis or frequency. Today, this fact struck me as I was perusing the ‘Tech News from Asia‘ blog in BusinessWeek, one of the most frequent perpetrators of this odious comparison, and came across this comment, which I’ll reproduce in full:

As a Chinese, I don’t understand why westerners, Americans
particularly, keep comparing India to China. India has its own path to
walk on, and so does China. Diversity in development is a good thing.
Both countries have a very intelligent population with a long
historical and cultural background.

Americans really need to learn to
accept and maybe even embrace diversity for a change, instead of
lecturing the whole world all the time.

If you look more closely,
China’s politcal and human rights situation is probably not as bad as
many in the west would like to believe, and its economic progress isn’t
as amazing and threatening as the press would have you believe.

I have
not been to India so I can’t really say much about it. But I know that
India is a great country with many achievements who has been colonized
and oppressed economically by the British for over 200 years. If one
were to compare, then consider that unlike China, India has only been
truely able to define and tread its own path to its own destiny for
merely 60 years out of the last 300 years of its history. I believe in
India’s path to success just as much as China’s.

Posted by: ChineseView  at August  6, 2006 03:03 AM

If asked, I’d hazard a guess that this need to constantly compare harks back to the premise of competition, the old ‘business as a battlefield’ motif we see ever since some B-School professor discovered Clausewitz.

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2 Responses to Indeed, its time to stop comparing India and China

  1. niblettes says:

    I think the comparison is valid. China and India represent two very different histories, with two very different approaches to organization, and two very similar development trajectories right now. It’s important to compare (especially now rather than just in retrospect) in order to help understand what contributes to development and how.
    This isn’t to say that we’ll find *the* answer. But there is enormous value in asking the question. The fact that we in the west are outsider allows us to genuinely ask the question in a way that either China or India could not.
    Furthermore I think that there is a much bigger question just under the surface: How far can a people progress under authoritarian rule? And what are the effects of development on freedom and authoritarianism? I suspect how China and India demonstrate the answers these question will have profound implications around the world–especially on this side of the Pacific.

  2. niti bhan says:

    Yes, I cannot disagree with you, niblettes, when you point it out like that. It does take an external PoV to contrast and compare to evaluate the ostensibly similar trajectories of these divergent cultures.

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