by Frank Li

It is not only intuitively sense-making, but also intellectually fashionable to compare India with China, from the economy (By 2050, China And India Will Overtake United States As The World's Most Powerful Economies), to the population (Animation: Comparing China vs. India Population Pyramids), to a specific sector in the population (A Tale of Two Millennials: India and China). But few comparisons make any profound sense, nor are they intelligent!

In this post, I will highlight the most critical difference between China and India: uniformity vs. diversity, with the conclusion that India is behind China by at least 200 years, in terms of governance and economic development.

1. Two Great Ancient civilisations: India And China

It is a commonly accepted theory that six major ancient civilisations, as shown below (The Rise and Fall of the Mighty: Six Ancient Civilisations), developed mostly independently starting more than 5,000 years ago.

Both India (Indus Valley Civilisation) and China should be very proud of the fact that they have not only survived, but also with a bright future ahead. For more, read: Civilisations: Past, Present, and Future.

2. Overview of 2,000 Years of Economic History

The image below is worth more than 1,000 words.

Three highlights:

India and China had the largest economies in the world for the first 1,800 years of our 2-millennium-old calendar!

The West caught up with India and China around 1820, as the global colonization, which started after 1492, when Christopher Columbusdiscovered the "new" world, had finally materialized!
China started its comeback in 1980, and India followed.

3. Today: China vs. India

Let me highlight each ...

3.1 China today

China is quickly becoming a cashless society, with e-payment by I-phone everywhere, from super-markets, to street-side mom-&-pop shops, and even to the homeless ... Any doubt? Watch the video below.

Two profound questions:

In addition to the technological infrastructures behind China's almost cashless society, what kind of social structure is there? Tip: think in such terms as law-&-order, inequality, and even moral standards.

Is this ever possible in India or even in the U.S.? No, perhaps not! For more, read: The U.S. vs. China: A Great Experiment vs. A Great Civilization!

3.2 India today

India is the largest democracy in the world. But is democracy a good thing? Watch the video below.
A key difference between India and China: China built the world-class infrastructure (e.g. highways, high-speed railways, and bridges and dams) over the past four decades, while India could not even acquire enough land to build some highways, thanks to democracy!

4. Tomorrow: China Vs India

To foresee the future, we must truly understand the present, for which we must go back in history with some details ...

5. History: China Vs India

Let's go all the way back to Rome, and move forward from there ...

5.1 The Roman Empire Vs. the Chinese Empire

The image below highlights the key difference between the Roman Empire and the Chinese Empire, which is the key reason why the former was long gone while the latter has long endured.

Three informative readings:

5.2 India Vs Rome Or China

Indians did not even attempt to unify their countries like the Romans or the Chinese did. Instead, India was, and still is, very proud of its diversities (e.g. race & ethnicity, language, and religion).

Three Extended Notes:

China did import Buddhism from India a long time ago, although China remains primarily godless. For more, read: There is No God - Not in China, Nor Elsewhere!

Speaking of uniformity, Japan is definitely most uniformed among the major countries, far more uniformed than China. For more, read: Human History: China vs. Japan.

5.3 Western Colonisation

While China was severely subjugated by the West over the Century of humiliation, India suffered even more, especially over the 200 years of British colonisation (Colonial India).

5.4 Independence

After World War II, both India and China became independent, via different roads though.

India adopted a system that has turned out to be the worst combination of socialism (following the USSR) and capitalism (following the US), with democracy in the middle as the link.

The CPC (Communist Party of China) fought a civil war and won. As a result, the People's Republic of China was born in 1949, adopting socialism (following the USSR).

How did China do afterwards?

Simply put, China under Mao Zedong (1949-1976) was a total disaster, except for these two big and good things:

He unified China in 1949.
He implemented a mandatory primary 9-year education system throughout China.

Both are critical for China's dramatic comeback over the past four decades, especially in comparison with India, whose illiteracy is still totally embarrassing, although great progress has been made recently (Illiteracy in India).

5.5 Reforms

After Mao's death in 1976, China, under the leadership of a wise man named Deng Xiaoping, reformed its economic system chiefly by adopting capitalism, without fundamentally changing its political system though (e.g. adopting democracy like Russia did - Mikhail Gorbachev vs. Deng Xiaoping). As a result, China now has the best combination of socialism and capitalism in the world today.

In contrast, India is stuck with democracy, incapable of any real and significant reforms ...

6. Discussion

With the history uniquely interpreted and briefly presented in some detail above, let's discuss the future for both India and China.

Governance is everything!
Below is a famous quote.

Simply put, India's diversity provided a fertile ground for the adoption of democracy, which, unfortunately, has never really worked, from Athenian democracy more than 2,000 years ago to American democracy today (America: It's Democracy, Stupid!).

In contrast, China's uniformity-based system, with many endemic problems of its own, has proven to be the best available in the world today.

Roughly speaking, over the past four decades, China has achieved what it took the West some 200 years to do, in terms of economic development. Why would it take India less than 200 years?

America today is similar to India 2,000 years ago in two major ways as follows:

Diversity (e.g. race & ethnicity, religion, and even language).
Self-governing almost to the extreme of governance-less.
Because America is behind China in governance by some 2,000 years, so is India. Three informative readings:

7. Closing

India is behind China by at least 200 years, in terms of governance and economic development.
For the significance of China's comeback, read: History 2.0.