March 6, 2021

India Measures Itself Against a China That Doesn’t Notice

At a recent panel discussion to commemorate the 20th anniversary of India’s dismantling parts of its socialist economy, a government minister told business leaders to keep their eye on the big prize: growing faster than China.

“That’s not impossible,” said the minister, Palaniappan Chidambaram, who oversees national security and previously was finance minister. “People are beginning to talk about outpacing China.”

Indians, in fact, seem to talk endlessly about all things China, a neighbor with whom they have long had a prickly relationship, but which is also one of the few other economies that has had 8 percent or more annual growth in recent years.

Indian newspapers are filled with articles comparing the two countries. Indian executives refer to China as a template for development. Government officials cite Beijing, variously as a threat, partner or role model.

But if keeping up with the Wangs is India’s economic motive force, the rivalry seems to be largely one-sided.

“Indians are obsessed with China, but the Chinese are paying too little attention to India,” said Minxin Pei, an economist who was born in China and who writes a monthly column for The Indian Express, a national daily newspaper. (No Indian economists are known to have a regular column in mainland Chinese publications.)

Most Chinese are unconcerned with how India is growing and changing, because they prefer to compare their country with the United States and Europe, said Mr. Pei, a professor at Claremont McKenna College near Los Angeles. He says he has tried to organize conferences about India in China but has struggled to find enough Chinese India experts.

Liu Yi, a clothing store owner in Beijing, echoed the sentiments of a dozen Chinese people interviewed in Beijing and Shanghai, in dismissing the idea that the two countries could be compared. Yes, he said India was a “world leader” in information technology but it also had many “backward, undeveloped places.”

“China’s economy is special,” Mr. Liu said. “If China’s development has a model, you could say it’s the U.S. or England.”

It might be only natural that the Chinese would look up the development ladder to the United States, now that it is the only nation in the world with a larger economy, rather than over their shoulders at India, which ranks ninth. And while China is India’s largest trading partner, the greatest portion of China’s exports go to the United States.

So for India, China represents the higher rung to strive for.

Like India, China traces its civilization back thousands of years and has a population of more than 1 billion people. And China has lessons to offer because, under Deng Xiaoping in the late 1970s and early ’80s, it started the transition to a more open and competitive economy more than a decade before India. Before Deng took power, India’s economy was bigger on a per-capita basis than China’s.

Whatever the reasons, Indians compare virtually every aspect of their nation with China. Infrastructure (China is acknowledged as being many kilometers ahead). The armed forces (China is more powerful). Universities (China has invested more in its institutions). The software industry (India is far ahead). Proficiency in the English language (India has the historical advantage, but China is catching up).

Evidence of the Indo-Sino interest disparity can be seen in the two countries’ leading newspapers. The People’s Daily, the Chinese Communist Party’s house organ, had only 24 articles mentioning India on its English-language Web site in the first seven months of this year, according to the Factiva database. By contrast, The Times of India, the country’s largest circulation English-language newspaper, had 57 articles mentioning China — in July alone.

Xu Yan contributed reporting from Shanghai and Joshua Frank from Beijing.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=86edc3d52ed506bff336cbb3ee3c1498

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