Friday, June 17, 2005

India or China? 

Mark Steyn believes that India, not China, is the Asian giant to watch. Indian blogger Amit Varma, who came to prominence blogging in the aftermath of the tsunami, is not as optimistic about India's prospects. He has written a piece titled "The myth of India's liberalization" for "The Asian Wall Street Journal" (which, alas, requires subscription), but it is also available for free on his blog India Uncut (hat tip: Instapundit):
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is due to visit Washington in a few weeks, and editorialists and commentators have already started writing about the emerging economic power of India. New Delhi's decision to start liberalizing its economy in 1991 is touted as a seminal event in India's history, the moment when it threw off the shackles of Fabian socialism and embraced free markets. It is the stuff of myth - and to a large extent, it is exactly that.
As he concludes:
In between the socialist left and the religious right is the Congress, a party which occupies the center of the political space almost by default. Its position on issues is always malleable, and although it is currently the party of government, it leads a coalition that depends on the left for survival. The pace of reforms has not increased since it came to power last year, and is not likely to do so anytime soon. While the world focuses on the metaphorical bright lights of Bangalore, most of the country - indeed, much of Bangalore itself, which has been plagued by power and infrastructure problems recently - remains in darkness.
One gets the impression that China is not much different - that while ironically the communist government is significantly more pro-market than the Indian one, the phenomenal boom of cities like Beijing or Shanghai or the whole provinces like Guangdong distracts from the reality that most of the country and most of the population have been barely touched by the winds of change.

Still, even those "metaphorical bright lights" are a good progress in countries that have until recently been so mired in poverty and backwardness. Maybe, too, it is too much to expect that the world's two most populous countries can completely catch up to the West in just one or two decades.


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