Don’t weep for the Chinese but for the Desis-

I am a bite tired of this anti-PRC propaganda. Since Tiananmen Square; the PRC has averaged an annual growth rate of 8% (the economy is doubling *roughly* every 10years if not less).

Coupled with the negative population growth rate (I don’t know if there is demographic momentum but I haven’t checked); China has managed to transform herself in 30years.

Maybe the protestors didn’t get what they want (Freedom) but they did get prosperity and China has managed to:

This growth has led to a substantial increase in real living standards and a marked decline in poverty. Between 1981 and 2008, the proportion of China’s population living on less than $1.25/day is estimated to have fallen from 85% to 13.1%, meaning that roughly 600 million people were taken out of poverty.
For balance I’m adding:
I only imagine if Pakistan or India had been able to effect this transformation in the same time period. India finally seems to be getting the wind into the her sails under a *authoritarianesque* government.
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23 Replies to “Don’t weep for the Chinese but for the Desis-”

  1. We can’t reasonably compare India (or Pak) to China for several reasons:

    India’s robust judiciary and civil society won’t permit the sort of IP theft and labor suppression that facilitated China’s rise.

    Chinese economic reforms have been done with purpose and speed, Indian economic reforms have been halfhearted (democracy slows down this process as well, because once a reform passes the opposition will make a brouhaha out of it to score votes.)

    China’s level of human capital is stellar, South Asia’s is pitiful (though we have room to grow!)

    China is a genetically and culturally homogenous country, India is riven by numerous faultlines.

    I could go on and on…but it is fatuous to say we could ever emulate the Chinese.

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    1. “I could go on and on…but it is fatuous to say we could ever emulate the Chinese.”

      I think this is the wrong way to look at things. We can all bemoan that China doesn’t face the same constraints as other countries but no one gave them a chance 50 years ago. They figured out a system that works for them, learnt from mistakes, and executed relentlessly.

      If India needs to achieve things that no one else has in the past, we’ll have to try things we haven’t.

      The impediment is our culture of half-assing things and high tolerance for depravity.

      This is both good and bad. It caps the downside. So you don’t have stuff like great leap forward and society continue to evolve in a stable-ish manner (‘Hindu rate of growth’).

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  2. As impressive as China’s rise is, one should keep in mind that the country that has lifted the second most number of people out of absolute poverty in a commensurate time frame is India. No mean feat for a democracy (unprecedented, perhaps?)

    However, folks like me who might wax poetic that India’s political system is a much more preferable and stable alternative in the long run to a China-like authoritarian state are almost always the ones that pay the least personal opportunity cost for the chosen developmental arc. In contrast to China, the majority of the Indian population still live in a state of low-middle HDI and per capita income. Developmentally, the Chinese model has proven to be far superior from a utilitarian perspective.

    However, I find comparing India and China along developmental axes to be not very informative at best, and a category error at worst. It’s simply not possible to do what China did on such a scale unless you have a high degree of centralization on top of an authoritarian system. It’s just not possible for India to adopt anything close to such a system of government without breaking apart. Warts n’ all, some form of democracy with a high degree of federalism is the only default option for India if it is to remain a single country, making such comparisons kinda irrelevant.

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    1. one should keep in mind that the country that has lifted the second most number of people out of absolute poverty in a commensurate time frame is India. No mean feat for a democracy (unprecedented, perhaps?)

      India has also seen more of its people Perish than possibly any other (in recent times esp.). That is also unprecedented, in 2 ways, one it happened and 2nd it isn’t talked enough.

      1950-2005, 500 Million Indians died in total. Of these 90%+ were in poverty and 200 Million of these were Children (esp on account of horrendous infant mortality rate).

      And to me this is worse than what happened in China with GLF, CR, 1989 or what not.

      People have this aversion to term an atrocity/tragedy/crime which happens over Decades as an atrocity relative to when something of that nature happens over a brief period of time.

      Even long Colonial exploitation suffers from this dynamic and it is usually the specific instances which then dominate the narrative and get substituted for the entire time frame (which gets a generic reference which essentially neuters the scale of the criminality).

      What is worse, 1000s in few weeks, 2-3 million people dying in 3 years or 200 MILLION Children perishing unnecessarily over multiple generations across 55 Years?

      There is no such thing as It depends. In both cases people died, so that is bad but the spectrum of Bad-Ness absolutely matters because the mode is different and as is the Scale and Scope of the suffering of these Humans in question.

      And thus the term which can be used (because that is what it means semantically) for what India did is Malevolent. Because it knew what was happening, for decades and it continued to happen. This wasn’t an accident.

      GLF was an accident, borne out of incompetence but an accident none the less. CR was intentional yet still brief. 1989 was trivial in scale and has been further vindicated by History since.

      More humans were placed in well-off situations in China than India did (in their modern Nation State era’s). THAT is what happened.

      Yet this is not the narrative because it makes many uncomfortable at their core, because fundamentally they know the truth, i.e. Death and Human Suffering is bad and the more of it is objectively more bad and India had it so it is uncomfortable to accept.

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      1. Not sure about the value of the death rate as a metric, but you can compare historic death rate trends for different countries here:
        https://www.indexmundi.com/facts/indicators/SP.DYN.CDRT.IN/compare?country=in

        It is interesting that India’s death rate is currently lower than that in US, UK, Norway and Sweden (which makes me sceptical of whether it is a particularly useful metric.)

        Before we get too excited at being better than “the West”, it is worth noting that the Indian death rate is pretty typical (actually somewhat worse than) for South Asia.

        China’s death rate trend is the most interesting.

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        1. Not sure about the value of the death rate as a metric

          Of course it has value, my comment explained this.

          Human suffering is bad. Period.

          And Death is a particular kind of Bad.

          More of it is objectively worse not, “It Depends”.

          Secondly is the fact about gross number of humans affected on account of the Statistical Scale Multiplier of India (and China).
          Just because India and Germany have the same percent metric doesn’t really tell the actual reality in terms of HOW MANY actual Humans were rolled into this. This is paramount because emotion /feeling/tragedy is not a per-capita aligned dynamic.

          Thirdly, is the fact that China had a different system and more political turmoil-cycles and yet it out matched India in both gross and percent and it outmatched Western nations in percent terms (for those who want to use that, though it is still trivial because 4-10 times more people get affected in China for an equivalent percent/per-capita statistical measure with a Western nation, hence the erroneous nature of it for this purpose).

          Thus the point stands.
          Indian Republic saw it causing far far far more suffering and death across multiple generations than China.
          And the difference (the most significant one) was the Governance System. Every other difference was trivial, esp. when extrapolated over multiple decades and generations.

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  3. All said and done, achievements of China is impressive and staggering indeed. Not only hundreds of millions have been taken out of property. In science, technology and industry China has ambitions to take on the US and beyond. We can criticize Belt and Road Initiative, but it is Chinese initiative on a massive scale. Chinese commitment to engage with the modern world on all fronts and the success shown so far is remarkable.

    India has to end it’s obsession with the past – positive or negative obsession – to match China

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  4. In China, empires were always stronger than the societies but in India it’s otherwise. Strongest Indian empires (Mauryan, Gupta, Mughal) were probably weaker than the weakest Chinese empires.
    –someone from recent Oxford union debate regarding Modi

    I think, our huge population combined with the above observation are the reasons for SanatanaDharma to last such a long time inspite of a millennia of humiliation by both islamists, commies and xtians!!

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    1. To borrow from Greer (a China Hand), one of the most salient trends in Chinese history since the Han Dynasty is that its interregnums keep getting shorter. This doesn’t happen anywhere else!

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  5. “However, folks … who might wax poetic that India’s political system is a much more preferable and stable alternative in the long run to a China-like authoritarian state are almost always the ones that pay the least personal opportunity cost for the chosen developmental arc.”

    Something similar is also true of the people who wax poetic about the Chinese system.

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  6. What Chinese have can be called a system, what we have is “whatever works” or “none of the above” as system

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  7. Coupled with the negative population growth rate (I don’t know if there is demographic momentum but I haven’t checked);

    .5 seconds of google will show you that it’s not negative.

    though the dependency ratio is now shifting.

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  8. You are mixing up two separate issues Zach. That the Chinese state cruelly and viciously crushed peaceful protesters in Tiananmen is not propaganda, it is just a fact. That China has also made a lot of material progress is also a fact. The two did not have to be linked.. Unless you believe that attacking your citizens with tanks is the way to get economic progress for the desis?

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    1. @Omar, From Chinese perspective, Tienanmen crackdown turned out to be great success. Had the protests snowballed, China would have suffered the fate of Soviet Union. It would have brought down the communist regime, and resulting chaos would have led to the break up of the country. Xin Jiang and Tibet would have seceded, possibly inner-Mongolia too.

      Subsequent Chinese economic success was contingent upon the country staying intact and in a single piece. So yes, the two issues are linked.

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      1. We will never know what may have happened if they had not used tanks, but we do know what happened when they did.. it was a terrible crime.

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  9. Query: how would secession of Xinjiang and Tibet, or even Inner Mongolia (far less likely) have prevented China’s economic growth?

    Maybe you want to argue that China’s growth depended on the ruthless exploitation of the non-Han peoples of those regions … maybe not.

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    1. Query: how would secession of Xinjiang and Tibet, or even Inner Mongolia (far less likely) have prevented China’s economic growth?

      ~zero effect. these regions exist as part of PRC due to nationalism and geopolitics. commodities are part of a global market. south korea is rich without the resource base on north korea.

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      1. Oh yeah. How could I forget the foreign currency tourists visiting from Tibet and Xin Jiang would have brought! 😉

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    2. Query: how would secession of Xinjiang and Tibet, or even Inner Mongolia (far less likely) have prevented China’s economic growth?

      It would have cause significant economical disruption. National confidence takes a hit when the country break up.

      Russia’s economy declined steeply post soviet breakup. They are finding their foothold only now.

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  10. It would have cause significant economical disruption. National confidence takes a hit when the country break up.

    yes. explains west germany and s korea. and the vietnamese economic takeoff after reunification!

    genius with great historical perspective.

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