Guest columnist The most populous nations in the world are taking their due place in the affairs of the world – at last. Since their independence in the 1940s, both India and China are pursuing self-reliant policies to move forward economically, politically and culturally. Almost exclusively, all the developing countries of the world, for some reason or another, (mostly their own follies) could not develop a road map to upgrade the livelihoods of their citizens in a meaningful way. Both India and China, fortunately, had some of the most able leadership from the very beginning of their existence to guide the country in a positive direction.
Both India and China have rich and colorful histories and civilizations, which were undermined by the colonial powers of the West for more than three centuries. With the end of direct colonization, both countries got involved in a pragmatic nation-building campaign. Both countries avoided the influence of World Bank and IMF guidelines. That was a great blessing in disguise. Studies have found that the countries which received funds from World Bank and IMF are the countries which are in economic quagmire. Most of the big projects did not help the countries; rather, profit went to the Western companies.
From the very beginning, Indo-Chinese polices were based on self- reliance, banging on their own resources, talents, and skills. They made their own goods. In the beginning products were not good, but eventually they developed the skill to make anything and everything – from pencils to automobiles, to computers, to aircrafts, to nuclear bombs. It is now a well-known fact – Asia is the manufacturing headquarters of the world. Anything and everything you buy in the West was most likely made somewhere in Asia.
India and China developed their fundamental domestic policies themselves – not dictated by the West or any other entity. Having a large population was a plus, not a minus. With a large market, they could come up with any indigenous product which could be marketed in their own borders. So they developed an indigenous capital generation process, which could be invested and reinvested in their own country, without any need to borrow funds from foreign countries. Obviously, both the countries now borrow from outside, and multinationals (many of them are Chinese and Indians anyway) are more than happy to invest in India and China. But that is not happening as normal business transactions on equal footing.
India and China came up with a fantastic roadmap to educate their citizens. They built groundwork for first- class education systems since their independences – which catapulted a strong middle and business class – which, consequently, built solid ruling elite who are independent and capable of playing world-class games in business, technology, politics and culture.
India and China’s economy grew in probably the fastest speed in the history of human civilization. England, Germany and America never grew their economy as fast as India and China. Only Japan in the 1950s and ’60s and some of the Asian tigers (Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong and South Korea) are comparable. China currently graduates more than a half million engineers per year. India graduates more than a quarter million engineers. In comparison, the USA graduates about 100,000 engineers a year. In the long run, this will have a huge impact on the world. The country which will have the most skilled workers will have, ultimately the edge.
Additionally, both India and China are not depleting their resources by getting engaged in nonproductive activities like war and flexing their muscles around the world. In comparison to America’s defense budget, India and China’s budgets are more balanced. In the long run, this will take away resources from education and research. Even India and China’s health care systems are more sensible than America’s.
The number game is in favor of India and China. Before, large populations were considered a liability. However, when a large population achieves more KSA (knowledge, skills and abilities) than smaller populations, the smaller ones are in a disadvantageous condition. By default, in future, countries with large population will have a large role to play (with competitive KSA). Both India and China are far from being ideal countries, but they have done their homework reasonably well in the last half-century and are prepared to play their deserving role in the world theatre. Their time has arrived.
Nasir Ahmed is a Grambling State public administration professor.