As recently as 2006, when I first visited India and China, the economic race was on, with heavy bets being placed on which one would win the developing world sweepstakes.
Many Westerners fervently hoped that a democratic country would triumph economically over an autocratic regime.
Now the contest is emphatically over. China has lunged into the 21st century, while India is still lurching toward it.
That’s evident not just in columns of dry statistics but in the rhythm and sensibility of each country. While China often seems to eradicate its past as it single-mindedly constructs its future, India nibbles more judiciously at its complex history.
Visits to crowded Indian urban centers unleash sensory assaults: colorful dress and lilting chatter provide a backdrop to every manner of commerce, from small shops to peddlers to beggars. That makes for engaging tourism, but not the fastest economic development. In contrast to China’s full-throated, monochromatic embrace of large-scale manufacturing, India more closely resembles a nation of shopkeepers.
To be sure, India has achieved enviable success in business services, like the glistening call centers in Bangalore and elsewhere. But in the global jousting for manufacturing jobs, India does not get its share.
Now, after years of rocketing growth, China’s gross domestic product per capita of $9,146 is more than twice India’s. And its economy grew by 7.7 percent in 2012, while India expanded at a (hardly shabby) 5.3 percent rate.
The New York Times