Economists and Western political leaders love to compare India and China, and it’s an understandably irresistible comparison: They’re both rising Asian economies with more than a billion people, and neighbors to boot.
On India Real Time we’ve done a little of that ourselves from time to time. If you’re pressed for time we can sum it up like this: China has more of everything (except poor people.) If you’re not, here are five blogs that stacked India and China up against each other on different indicators in the past year.
1. Warren Buffett: The billionaire from Omaha so far has appeared to be leaning a bit more towards China, at least in terms of investments. Mr. Buffett’s company, Berkshire Hathaway Co., holds a sizeable stake in Chinese battery and auto-maker BYD Co. And Mr. Buffett visited in September, along with Bill Gates, hoping to convince Chinese billionaires to give away more of their wealth to charity. The love is returned, with a Chinese man having paid a record $2.1 million to have a one-on-one lunch with the investing wizard.
Mr. Buffett has said that he’d like to invest in India but his plans have been stymied by caps on foreign holdings in insurance.
However, India can at least look forward to hosting him in the new year. The billionaire announced at a shareholders’ meeting this year, in response to a question from a young Indian-American, that he plans to visit India in 2011, perhaps in March.
2. The Big-Ticket Event: India hosted the Commonwealth Games in October, China hosted the Asian Games in November. Of course, China’s already hosted the Olympics—and how—so it hardly seems fair to compare the two.
But we did anyway. The news coverage of the Indian Games was rife with words like “delays,” “corruption,” “shambles” (we’re pretty sure that was the British press) and “filthy” until the opening night extravaganza quelled criticism for a bit.
China, it appeared, had lovely, shiny venues ready to go about five months ahead of the event, so it could spend the final days flicking away little specks of dust from its Games merchandise.
3. Their Middle Classes: According to a report on Asia’s middle classes this year, India still has about 650 million people living on under $2 dollars a day measured in 2005 purchasing parity dollars.
China now has less than 100 million living on that amount. Yet there was a time, as recently as the 1990s, when the two countries had similar numbers of poor. China has just done a better job of lifting people from that bracket into the middle class, and not just onto the next rung —the $2 to $4 range, where a majority of India’s middle class folks fall.
The majority of Chinese now fall in the “mid middle class” category that can spend $5 to $10, a group whose numbers appear to have quadrupled between 1995 and 2007.
But don’t blame the slower rate of reduction in poverty on India’s political system, says John Lee of the Sydney-based think-tank Center for Independent Studies.
4. The Economy, Stupid: China is still a much bigger economy than India, even though the two countries have roughly similar numbers of people. At a Hindustan Times conference on India, Shashi Ruia, chairman of Essar Group, compared the two countries on steel production, car production and trade.
As we already said, China does more of everything. The gap is undoubtedly glaring on roads, electricity production, trains and other infrastructure.
5. Surfing: India’s and China’s online populations belong to different worlds, judging by their Google searches. India appears to be firmly embedded in the English-speaking western world, looking for products like Nokia and applications like Facebook, Yahoo! and YouTube, although when it comes to films, it’s all Bollywood. China seemed to be the reverse—relying largely on Chinese applications but much more likely to seek out Hollywood films. They did have this much in common though: outré pop star Lady Gaga.