Tuesday, April 04, 2006

China vs India: the match of the century

Interesting discussion of the two countries by someone who knows both well. Nury Vittachi tells us how it feels:

Since my own immediate family is almost equally south Asian and Chinese, I may be better placed than most commentators to offer an unbiased view. In this regard, I offer the following informal, impressionistic and totally arbitrary list of comparisons:

* roads in Chinese cities get you where you are going; roads in Indian cities are often interrupted by bullocks, demonstrations or encampments
* in China, most English-speaking business visitors need a translator; in India, officials and business people are dazzlingly fluent in English
* Chinese hotels have a talent for fleecing guests; Indian hotels are friendlier but noticeably less efficient
* in China, officials know how their system works; Indian executives have more of a feel for how the world works
* buildings are erected in China seemingly overnight; in India, they often take years to creep into place
* China's bureaucracy seems more efficient than India's on the surface, but is more mysterious and labyrinthine once you get under the skin
* in China, you feel your freedom is limited by government power; in India, you feel it is limited by corruption
* in China, people are nihilistic, unable to shape their own society; in India, people come across as empowered by the ballot-box
* people in China come across as anxious and restless; in India, they appear happier, comforted by religion and ritual
* huge swathes of China are locked in a timeless, rural way of life; in this respect, India is exactly the same.

It is impossible to referee this particular prize-fight; the variables are too many and too diverse. A number of commentators say India's rate of economic growth will overtake China's as early as 2008; at least an equal number say China's will remain ahead indefinitely.

Although I live in China, I cannot help but notice one intriguing factor: there's a clear link between creativity and societal freedom. India has both, in large measure; China has neither.
Read it all

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