China and India: Will Economic Development and Political Democracy Converge? |

China and India: Will Economic Development and Political Democracy Converge?


Today, China and India have come to represent two distinct political-economic models. Led by a Communist authoritarian political system, China has been transforming its economy in the past thirty years, in an unprecedented manner. For much of the past 60 years, political leadership in democratic India didn't seem to think too carefully about the economic stagnation and poverty. But it is primarily in the past ten years that India's economic potential has begun to attract world attention. China and India have been neighbours, but the great Himalayan range had mostly kept the two of the oldest civilization isolated. For almost a thousand year, there was hardly any meaningful contact between the two peoples. However, in the past twenty years, economic relationship has multiplied many folds. But at the same time serious political differences on various issues have kept cropping up every now and then.

So, are the two Asian giants destined to be torn between such contrasting sentiments? I would like to explore the parallels and contrasts between the economic evolution, and the wider political context in both the countries, that either stimulated or hindered economic development. For instance, did the political context in which Deng Xiaoping took control of the reins of power in China lead to the first steps towards economic reforms? Around the same time, there was enormous political churning in India in the mid-1970s, leading to the first non-Congress government coming to power in Delhi. But the change in political configuration, rather than leading to change in economic policies, only further entrenched the earlier economic controls. The question is why.

In more recent times, what has been the impact of political decentralization in China, in promoting economic growth? Over the past decade, Indian polity has witnessed increasing fragmentation. But greater political competition at the elections has on the one hand increased political uncertainty, while at the same creating the condition for much better economic performance.

I would trace the political development in these two very happening countries and try to build a relationship between the shifting political context, and changing economic environment. And now that both the countries are on very similar economic growth path, the final question to ponder would be whether the political trajectories would in some way converge towards as well?

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Barun S. Mitra, Founder and Director of the Liberty Institute

Monday, 31 January 2011
5.15 p.m. - 6.30 p.m.

Seminar Room 3-1
Level 3, Manasseh Meyer
Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy
469C Bukit Timah Road
Singapore 259772

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