India Versus China

Last week we read an interesting article written by Amartya Sen, the 1998 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, where he portrayed the fundamental differences between China and India and its consequences. Although twenty years ago we would put both countries on an equal pedestal when talking about their economic potential, nowadays India can only dream of overtaking Chinese growth.

What is surprisingly distinct about the two Asian giants is that they are choosing complete different models of development. Of course both countries are highly unequal, but the truth is that China is doing much more to eliminate them. They have raised their life expectancy, they have extended public education and are developing their health system. India on the other hand, has done little to expand its elite schools for the privileged and its government spends half of what China does in health care.

Nevertheless, regarding political rights, modern India is an example as the world’s largest democracy and the country is gifted with a vibrant and free media. Indeed, “democratic participation, free expression and rule of law are largely realities in India, and still largely aspirations in China”. What is interesting is thus to understand if democratic means can achieve solutions for endemic problems. Can democracy be a pathway to reduce inequality? Is it harder to do it in a democracy? Is it more important to educate citizens and improve their health in a nondemocratic system or to develop democracy knowing that multiparty democracy may be slower to eliminate inequality due to less decisiveness?

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