China and India’s Growth

The McKinsey Quarterly discusses the different routes the two countries are taking towards growth:

First it was China. The rest of the world looked on in disbelief, then awe, as the Chinese economy began to take off in the 1980s at what seemed like lightning speed and the country positioned itself as a global economic power. GDP growth, driven largely by manufacturing, rose to 9 percent in 2003 after reaching 8 percent in 2002. China used its vast reservoirs of domestic savings to build an impressive infrastructure and sucked in huge amounts of foreign money to build factories and to acquire the expertise it needed. In 2003 it received $53 billion in foreign direct investment, or 8.2 percent1 of the world’s totalmore than any other country.

India began its economic transformation almost a decade after China did but has recently grabbed just as much attention, prompted largely by the number of jobs transferred to it from the West. At the same time, the country is rapidly creating world-class businesses in knowledge-based industries such as software, IT services, and pharmaceuticals. These companies, which emerged with little government assistance, have helped propel the economy: GDP growth stood at 8.3 percent in 2003, up from 4.3 percent in 2002. But India’s level of foreign direct investment$4.7 billion in 2003, up from $3 billion in 2002is a fraction of China’s.

Both countries still have serious problems: India has poor roads and insufficient water and electricity supplies, all of which could thwart its development; China has massive bad bank loans that will have to be accounted for. The contrasting ways in which China and India are developing, and the particular difficulties each still faces, prompt debate about whether one country has a better approach to economic development and will eventually emerge as the stronger.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.