China and India – today and tomorrow

09:00 by Hubert Fromlet, Kalmar

Presentation by Hubert Fromlet at the LNU conference “Baltic Sea Region and Emerging Market / China Day” in Kalmar, October 17, 2022

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Summary

China and India are the two largest countries in the world when it comes to population. Both countries currently have the same size in population, around 1.4 billion people. China still has a larger total GDP but India may be currently catching up somewhat. Both countries have common problems but also diverging challenges. Altogether, none of these two giant countries is able these days to function as a main driver of the global economy in the way China did after the eruption of the global financial and economic crisis (“subprime crisis”) almost 15 years ago when China for a number of years was standing for more than one third of global GDP growth.

Nationalism is still increasing

Both China and India have moved to more nationalism in the past years. For China, this fact is really visible during the currently ongoing 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC; see Fromlet from September 2, https://blogg.lnu.se/china-research/).This convention will confirm the clearly strengthened power of CPC Chairman and President of China, Xi Jinping, with a lot of nationalist hymns and celebrations (https://www.chinadaily.com.cn/a/202210/16/WS634bb02aa310fd2b29e7cca1_3.html) – certainly more than India ever will be inclined to show domestically even if India’s Prime Minister Modi must be regarded as a convinced nationalist as well. But India is indeed interested in workable broad international relations all the same – also despite the presumable neutrality vis-à-vis Russia in the war against the Ukraine.

China on the other hand, seems to be more recognizable on Russia’s side during the ongoing war but will possibly look again at some point – as the main benefiter of globalization so far – for a better future image over the whole globe. In the forthcoming years, however, this cannot happen without a strategy change of the almighty CPC chairman and President of the People’s Republic of China.

At the same time, certain signs are showing that good or at least acceptable relations to the U.S. remain an important part of China’s foreign strategy. Sure, India’s democratic principles unite the U.S. and India more than it is the case between the U.S. and China. However, I found it quite interesting that an important Chinese voice very recently stressed the importance of Chinese-American relations (https://www.chinadaily.com.cn/a/202210/15/WS634a95eda310fd2b29e7ca98.html) – whatever this may mean.

Which country will be the winner in the longer run?

Some economic signals indicate that India may have escaped somewhat less damaged from the covid19-turmoil than China did with its rigid lockdown strategy which still is in place. Officially, the trend since the eruption of covid-19 pandemic  does not diverge substantially (GDP from Q4 in 2019 to Q2 in 2022: China: +8,8 %, India: +3.6 %, https://www.oecd.org/sdd/na/g20-gdp-growth-Q2-2022.pdf). But in Q2 this year, the Chinese drop of GDP was sharper than the Indian (-2.6 % compared to the previous quarter, for India this number was -1,4 %).

Altogether, one may conclude that no major difference between China and India can be found in their growth pattern from winter 2019 to summer 2022. But there is a catch: The quality of Chinese (GDP) statistics tends to be lower than in India.

Thus, the answer to the question about the economic winner in the long run remains uncertain. Considering all the structural problems in China (e.g. for institutions and their failures concerning transparency, corruption, supervision, bureaucracy, local government debt, corporate debt, non-competitive state-owned enterprises, etc.), one cannot predict that China still will have the lead 10-20 years from now. India suffers from similar challenges plus slow federal decision processes but is enjoying more Western sympathy points because of its democratic system.

 

Hubert Fromlet
Affiliate Professor at the School of Business and Economics, Linnaeus University
Editorial board

 

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