Throwing Light (& Cold Water) on India’s Progress versus China’s

China versus India

What’s the favorite pastime of armchair economists?

1. Discussing the emergence of emerging nations (BRICS)

What’s the second favorite pastime of….?

2. Why, let’s compare the progress of China versus India. Or vice versa.


Oh, you Indians, are you ready to get some cold water thrown on your arrogant assumptions on how similar the progress is? Are you ready to see how far behind India is to China? In every possible way, except one. The good thing is that it’s a BIG one!  Emancipation, Freedom, Liberty…Democracy. So, savor that (it’s worth savoring, indeed), while you get cold water thrown on the rest of the comparisons.

Thanks to The Economist that recently published an eye-opener of a comparison between the two countries, we can see what the reality is. Enjoy, if you can, analyzing this eye-opening chart, while I dismantle it into words below.

First, it is important to point out that China got started on its economic reforms and development 10 years before India did. One would think that perhaps there is about a 10 year gap between the two nations. Unfortunately (for India), it’s a lot more than that. 

The Comparison in Numbers and Years

So, without much ado, here are some sample development milestones that China achieved, compared to where India is today. A very interesting comparison, indeed!

Percent of population that are internet users today:

India – 9% [China achieved this percentage 6 years ago]

China – 32%

Adult Literacy Rate (15+ years of age) today:

India – 63% [China achieved this percentage a whopping 26 years ago!]

China – 94%

Life Expectancy at birth today:

India – 65 years [China achieved this, get this, 36 years ago]

China – 73 years

Child Mortality Rate Per 1000 children today:

India – 66  [which China achieved a remarkable 33 years ago]

China – 19

GDP Per Person today:

India – $3200 [China achieved this GDP 9 years ago]

China – $7400

So, Is it Worth it?

As the article states, China is racing ahead. Just because China progressed as fast as it did in the last nine years, one cannot assume that India will, in the next nine, achieve China’s current GDP. Be sure to read the other daunting (for India) statistics that are published.

In general, the article concludes that both from the standpoint of social and economic progress, India is going to take longer to reach the milestones that China did. In social issues, India lags really far behind China.

So, while Indians enjoy the freedom of democracy, it begs the question whether this is the real reason for the lack of a similar rate of progress that China has been able to scale.  And, if so, is it worth it?

Far be it for me to try and provide an objective opinion. But having lived in free countries all my life – India-America-India – I do have a very subjective opinion: It’s hard to imagine trading freedom for much of anything else.

India – how wonderful for you if you can figure out the puzzle of having both!



Taj Mahal: By Yann (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Great Wall:By Jakub Hałun (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons


Posted on October 24, 2011, in india and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Gautama (the Buddha) always travelled with a monk he called ‘Kalyan Mitra’, whose designated role was to be brutally frank with him. Whenever the Buddha believed his own press and became a tad arrogant as a result, the Kalyan (progress) Mitra (friend) called him out on it. Thank you Maansi for being India’s Kalyan Mitra and calling us out on our bullshit. Your posts consistently show how much you love India and how much you care for India’s progress. Gosh, if I were India’s PM, I would hire you for this service! 🙂

    • That’s so impressive…that Buddha was smart enough (but of course he was!) to have this trusted friend. Besides what he did for Buddha, I love that name and what it means. Thanks for the new insight.

      We see too many politicians and business leaders surrounded by their sycophants and lackeys with nobody brave enough to have crucial conversations with their bosses – to tell them (in a nice, productive way of course) that they (“the emperors”) don’t have any clothes on.

      — Kalyan “Maansi” Mitra – that’s my new moniker…;) and I take it as a great compliment. Thanks!

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