The Chinese Cut:
World Bank President James Wolfensohn attending the 'Conference on scaling up poverty reduction' in Shanghai in May, 2004, has heaped praise on China. The UN News site, no less, reports this: "Wolfensohn said the Chinese Communist Party's five-year economic plan was a good example of effective poverty-reduction strategies. "Shanghai is the obvious place to start considering ways to reduce poverty," he said. "There is something here we need to learn about constancy and good management." ". Hilary Benn, a British politician is quoted as saying, "China shows what can be done with the right circumstances and the right policies." Mark Malloch Brown of the UNDP said, "China took the lead in its war against poverty rather than relying on development agencies to steer its course."
High praise indeed from those manning the bulwarks of the Free World. Reports such as these get mirrored around widely with headlines tailored for the local readership. Indians too have begun to make sentences starting typically with, "If China can do it, why can't India... etc, etc"
What are "the right circumstances and the right policies" that Benn is referring to? Indians must know. And never forget.
China's achievements, as parroted, are formidable. In the 25 years since it took to the capitalist road, poverty has fallen from 50% to less than 10%, GDP increased from $360 billion to $12 trillion, its ranking in world trade climbed to four and its average personal income, risen to today's $1000. China's strategy to achieve all this—in strictly economic terms—can be simply stated thus: remove all barriers to growth in a controlled area, viz the eastern seaboard, create a boom there mostly through huge investments in infrastructure, and then take the prosperity in a bag, for distribution in the vast hinterland.
That in a nutshell, is the China story that so seduces impatient Indians. They wonder how, two similar countries can have such different states of development. On the face of it yes, India and China are similar. They are similar in population, culture and began their independent existence at about the same time. But there the similarities stop and the contrasts begin, highlighting which is the purpose of this essay.