The Indian Economy Blog

January 10, 2009

Et Tu, Gurcharan?

Filed under: Basic Questions,China,Politics,Regulatory reforms — Prashant @ 11:42 pm

Old Jungle Saying: “If you see India and China in the same article, it’s time to run for cover :-)”

The entire China vs India debate is so overdone and (mostly) futile. Unfortunately, it seems to elicit the most number of comments on IEB – largely bakwaas, unfortunately – which we have to perforce edit or delete.

Here’s Gurcharan Das, one of my favorite essayists with a rather strange op-ed in the New York Times that begins with the Mumbai terror attacks and the public’s reaction thereof, and then flits from meme to meme — India vs China, the role of Vaishyas in India’s growth, the Argumentative Indian, the 21st century rise of India (and China) and the role (or lack, thereof) of government, and the need for India to get its infrastructure right. Talk about a khichdi of ideas. For all I know, there may be a couple of other memes that I’ve missed. My head was spinning at the end.

Anyone else with similar reactions?


  1. I thought that most of what G DAS wrote made sense. Where exactly was the bakwaas that you saw?

    Comment by umesh — January 11, 2009 @ 3:35 pm

  2. Gurcharan Das is a very interesting and thought-provoking writer, but I agree that the China v India comparison is comparing apples to oranges at this point. The two countries were very similar in 30 years ago, but their trajectories have hugely deviated since then. One hard truth is that China’s government has ensured a much better basic life for its people. Some fundamental indicators pulled from Human Development Report 2007 (

    Probability at birth of not surviving to age 40 (% of cohort): (Chi v Ind) 6.8 v 16
    Life expectancy at birth: 72.5 v 63.7
    Children underweight for age (% under age 5): 8 v 47
    Infants with low birthweight (%) : 4 v 30
    Adult illiteracy rate (% aged 15 and older) : 9.1 v 39
    Population living below $2 a day (%): 34.9 v 80.4

    What the next 30 years holds is hard to predict. India’s democracy ensures that it will take care of its basic “roti, kapda, makaan” issues….eventually. And economic hardships are shaking up China’s undemocratic underpinnings. But current human existence in the two countries appears to be very different.

    Comment by Ishani — January 11, 2009 @ 8:43 pm

  3. Umesh

    Re bakwaas: I was referring to comments on the blog posts in the China category, most of which we’ve deleted or edited.

    Das’s essay isn’t bakwaas — agree with some of what he says. My issue was with the disjointed, meandering nature of his piece. And, on the points that I did agree with (the role of government in India, the need to improve our infrastructure etc.,) there really was nothing new that he offered

    Comment by Prashant — January 11, 2009 @ 10:32 pm

  4. [...] India — premanand @ 10:10 pm Sometimes I do feel the way Prashant feels in this link  Since I work in projects in both countries, I too get this question “India or China [...]

    Pingback by China Vs India Debate…Overdone? Yes « Premanand’s Weblog — January 12, 2009 @ 3:10 am

  5. I also felt the same way perhaps unlikely to consider him as liberal. In fact he has been talking and writing for quite some time. I also posted in my blog here

    Comment by chandra — January 12, 2009 @ 8:59 am

  6. It’s typical Gurcharan Das giving his audience what it likes. It will earn him easy publicity and (not that he cares) some quick money. After all, he does have a marketing background…

    Comment by photonman — January 13, 2009 @ 12:38 am

  7. Whats wrong with G.D.’S article?!

    It is just an overview of the prevailing situation in the country.

    Yes he has touched upon many subjects in it but don’t we do the same when we ourselves get involved in any discussion(s) about our country?

    YES it does not offer any Solutions to the problems mentioned but we have to find out whether that was his objective in this article!

    Comment by Rahul Sengupta — January 17, 2009 @ 9:10 pm

  8. [...] Unpatriotic. Introspections. This post on the Indian Economy Blog links to this op-ed article in the NY Times, authored by Gurcharan Das. [...]

    Pingback by Seemingly Unpatriotic. Introspections. « Crap — January 18, 2009 @ 6:23 pm

  9. Pallavi Iyer puts it very succinctly in “Smoke and Mirror”
    If you are born with very poor parents u better be in china…if you are with rich/upper middle class u better be in India.

    Comment by swaptions7 — January 20, 2009 @ 4:57 pm

  10. Instead of reading Gurcharan Das’s New York Times piece, two recent publications may be a better read for India readers to get a more informative perspective about China. The first one is particular interesting, as India is probably more behind than US on understanding China ( still stays at 60s of last century?):

    The real US deficit with China – knowledge
    As China returns as a world power, Americans should update their impressions.
    By Xu Wu (Xu Wu is an assistant professor in strategic media and public relations at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University)

    Entrepreneurship and Innovation in China – 1978-2008 – Three Decades of Decentralized Economic Growth
    by Bret Swanson*

    Comment by thecupgr — January 25, 2009 @ 8:53 am

  11. Good blog, keep up the good work, let our latent enrgies contribute towards the development of this great nation, and comment

    Comment by India lover — January 28, 2009 @ 7:56 pm

  12. Hi!

    The beauty of Democracy is that people get what they deserve, nothing less and nothing more. Indian people are paying for their misdeeds and their cultural (not religious) problems.

    We need an intellectually capable India. An India that thinks and acts and not reacts with a narrow sense of selfishness. If we can do that, we would be something much greater than anything the world has seen and not merely a distorted copy of the quasi-capitalist economy that is itself struggling with its own unsustainable growth.

    Lets think, act and deserve!


    Comment by Nitin — January 29, 2009 @ 8:00 pm

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