Reason Writers Around Town: Shikha Dalmia on the Great Urbanization Race Between India and China


As both India and China have liberalized their economies, writes Reason Foundation Senior Analyst Shikha Dalmia in her latest column at The Daily, poor rural migrants have flooded the cities in search of jobs. On the surface, it appears that Chinese cities have done a better job of assimilating these migrants becaue the cities are clean, beautiful, and, above all, free of poverty. None of that is true for Indian cities. But dig beneath the surface, Dalmia writes, and the darker half of China's beauty secret becomes apparent.

In the long run, notes Dalmia, "India's pell mell democracy might yet outperfrom China's hyperrational autocracy."

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  1. In the long run, notes Dalmia, “India’s pell mell democracy might yet outperfrom China’s hyperrational autocracy.”

    Just as long as people are allowed to freely engage in commerce, you will see India surpassing China at least when it comes to rising above poverty. One of the things that wealth brings is a lower impulse to have lots of children, as people’s futures are more assured and the pressure to have more future caretakers lessens.

    1. It’s bleeding obvious that India is the great Asian power of the future, not China. Not to recognize the profound and endemic problems that China has (not that India doesn’t have some, too) tells me that there’s something else about China that China fans like. Such as the tyranny to make other people do what you want them to do.

      India, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, maybe Malaysia. That’s the real future of Asia. And maybe China, too, if it liberalizes.

      1. Re: Pro Libertate,

        It’s bleeding obvious that India is the great Asian power of the future, not China.

        Totally agree. Whereas China has a bigger population and a very industrious people, India has something better – a people that thumb their noses at the government.

      2. I guess that’s why China just passed Japan for #2 world economy. Keep your head in the sand.

        1. You heard it here from “The Truth” India is NOT the great peril, China is.

          1. His teenage wisdom defeats me at every turn!

            Of course, I welcome the economic competition of India and China. Especially if their increased wealth helps further liberalize each nation and gets their hundreds of millions in poverty, well, out of poverty.

            Plenty of room in the global economy for economic powerhouses.

            1. The Truth is fast becoming my favorite troll here. Tony’s wearing thin, Chad seems to have disappeared, and I can’t tell Max from the numerous Max parodies. But The Truth has a specialty and he’s really smug. And that’s comedy gold.

              1. me me me

              2. Yeah. There is to pardon the pun some truth to that. The truth is not only smug, he is astoungingly ignorant and brutally honest about his love or authoritarianism. Tony, for all of his faults occasionally shows himself to be at least well meaning. Not the truth, he makes no effort to shield what a blindly ignorant and nasty person he is. Whoever created him, seems to have graduated with honors from the Urkobold school of trolling.

                1. I just checked The Trolling Company’s records, and it does appear that someone who might be the Truth has purchased several CDs from us.

        2. Another way of looking at that is that Japan has ten times the per-capita GDP that China does, even after 20 years of stagnation.

          1. Frankly, I have a feeling Japan isn’t down and out, only down. They’ve got an awful lot going for them, despite their own endemic problems.

            1. They have some huge advantages and some huge problems and I really can’t figure them out. I even work for a Japanese company and I still can’t figure them out.

  2. One quibble:

    Calling China’s autocracy “hyperrational” is like calling Marxism “scientific”.

    If Hayek’s work on the insuperable information problems facing central planners is valid, systems are irrational and unscientific to the degree that they retain features associated with central planning.

    1. Very good point. And those “gleeming cities” are a good example of this irrationality. Why would you prioritize resources so that you are spending billions making show cities when so many of your population live in abject poverty? That is the kind of irrational decision that only a central planner would make.

      1. They do seem kind of potemkiny. I keep thinking that at some point Hayek’s going to bite them in the ass.

        Metaphorically, I mean, not a literal Zombie Hayek ambling around and biting people.

        Although that would be really cool.

        1. Telling China that Salma Hayek may bite them in the ass will only encourage them. If you mean the old man, be sure you’re clear about that.

          1. Ah. Good point. I wouldn’t mind being bitten by Salma Hayek, either. Even vampire Salma.

        2. But they are the kind of stuff that impresses nitwit Western intellectuals. Intellectuals love white elefant projects. The real down and dirty stuff that actually builds prosperity never seesms to interest them.

      2. Right, and using the term “hyperrational” to describe what they’re doing gives them way, way too much credit.

        It’s adjectival propaganda.

        “Well, science might tell us that we should act as the Soviets are acting, but we still don’t want to do that. There’s more to life than science.”

        “Well, reason might tell us that we should act as the Chinese are acting, but we still don’t want to do that. There’s more to life than reason.”

        Same shit, different decade.

    2. It’s a good thing there aren’t any libertarian types that obsessively pretend they can be completely logical and objective about a world filled with stuff that’s not only incredibly complicated, but subjective and intuitive.

      Note: Comment not specifically directed at you, don’t feel obligated to defend yourself.

      1. You actually completely misunderstood my criticism.

  3. Kind of a related story

    There is no agribusiness of the type known in the United States, with highly mechanized farms growing thousands of acres of food crops, because Indian laws and customs bar corporations from farming land directly for food crops. The laws also make it difficult to assemble large land holdings.

    Yet even as India’s farming still depends on manual labor and the age-old vicissitudes of nature, demand for food has continued to rise ? because of a growing population and rising incomes, especially in the middle and upper classes. As a result, India is importing ever greater amounts of some staples like beans and lentils (up 157 percent from 2004 to 2009) and cooking oil (up 68 percent in the same period).

    (via marginal revolution.)

  4. I have always felt that China’s “one-party capitalism” will eventually lead to China becoming like Mexico under the PRI. The internal corruption and group-think will lead to massive blunders and ineptitude. Like the Imperial dynasties of its past, the CPC will eventually strangle the Chinese economy.

  5. we should undersand,then catch up

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