China and India Not So Different After All

Whether the economic tumult in China in recent weeks represents an overdue market correction or a more significant inflection point is a matter of debate.  But one clear message is just how profoundly wrong is the long-running argument that China enjoys a decisive “autocratic advantage” while India is excessively burdened by a “democratic disadvantage.”

The most basic lesson of the Chinese and Indian cases does not turn on the differences between political systems.  Rather, it is about the common difficulty of enacting systemic reforms in large, complex countries outside the crucible of intense crisis.

Indeed, the danger now in Delhi is that the current growth pickup will permit official hubris to crowd out good policy intentions.  One detects more than a whiff of overconfidence when Jayant Sinha, the minister of state for finance, declares that “It is India’s moment” or boasts about India being on the verge of leaving “China behind as far as growth and development matter.”  These statements are not only at odds with the more somber sentiments of the Indian business community, but are all too redolent of the easy talk about the coming “Indian Century” that the Singh era specialized in.

Read the full essay at Asia Sentinel’s website.

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