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Is the Chinese System Better Than the Indian System as It Has Removed Poverty and Made China a Great Power

Updated on September 7, 2020
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A senior air warrior, graduate from the Staff College and a PG in military studies. He is qualified to write on war and allied matters.


China and India have very ancient civilizations and one can say that they are the oldest in the world. Both civilizations existed side by side for almost 4000 years. There was no contact between these civilizations for all these hundreds of years. One reason for this was the impregnable Himalayan mountain range that formed a barrier. between China and India. The only contact between the 2 nations was through religion and intrepid Indian followers of Buddha traveled to Tibet and China and spread Buddhism. This was a major contact between the 2 countries but other than this for almost 2000 years the only other notable contact was when two Chinese travelers came to the court of the Mauryan King and spent time there. These were sporadic contacts and overall people to people contact between Chinese and Indians was next to nothing.

The 20th century dawned and both nations still did not have any people to people contact. Both nations had something in common and that was the role of imperialist powers. India was colonized by the British and their rule extended to 1947.


China was not colonized but it suffered a worse fate. The British made them a nation of opium addicts and at the same time, the western Nations had omnipotent powers in entire China. The country was also riven by internal wars between warlords. In short, there was total chaos in the country.

Inequality and poverty in China led to the rise of the Communist party. In 1911 Dr. Sun Yat-Sen had carried out a revolution in China and the seeds of the Nationalist party were sowed. The Nationalist party was headed by Chang Kai Shek and he was supported by the Americans. The Communist leader Mao Tse Tung on the other hand believed in the Marxist philosophy and the Americans were wary of him. Both groups launched into a civil war with the result that the Japanese were able to conquer Manchuria.

The end of the war marked by the surrender of Japan left the field open for civil war between the Communists and the Nationalists. Just as India became independent in 1947, the Communist Party prevailed in China and ushered in a Marxist regime in 1949. Mao modified the Marxist Leninist theory and adapted it to Chinese conditions. Overall he set up a dictatorship. Marx had envisaged a dictatorship of the proletariat which, to say the least, was a utopian idea but it found many supporters in the world. Mao was also fired with this idea but his interpretation was to set up a dictatorship of the Communist party. China became a one-party state and no dissent was tolerated. Winston Churchill had referred to China as part of the 'bamboo curtain' and this was true as the Chinese not only imposed censorship but also came down heavily on personal liberty and freedom of expression.


India had relatively a peaceful period during the days of the Raj. The British did bring in some development into the country and brought in the concept of a nation but at the same time, they did not touch the personal beliefs of the Hindus and the Muslims who constituted the main population of India. Thus the caste system continued with all its inherent problems. At the same time compared to China where not even a bicycle was being made the Indians were able to move ahead and had a steel plant as well as an aircraft and car manufacturing including locomotive factories.

In 1948, India was ahead of China economically and militarily. The Indian economy was four times the Chinese economy but at the same time, the entire fabric of Indian society was fractured with different laws for Hindus and Muslims. The caste factor loomed all over the country leading to sectarianism. Later it was to have a deadly concoction as meritocracy was replaced by selection for jobs on the basis of caste.

The Communist Party under Mao had universal laws for everybody in China and did away with classes and began to usher in a new society though dominated by Marxist dogma.

In 1947 the Indian leaders decided to opt for democracy because they felt this was the only way they could get keep a multilingual and multireligious country together. They adopted the Westminister model mainly because that was well known to Indians, the British having ruled for close to 200 years. No study was carried out as to whether this model was suitable for India which was a backward country at that time and riven by caste and religion. China opted for a dictatorship and universal law for everybody but also the Communists believed in restoring China's place to what it was in the middle ages when it was known as the "Middle Kingdom" the center of the world. They even brought forth the Belt and Road initiative to spread their influence across Asia and Europe.

The India on the other hand had a majority Hindu population but had been ruled by the Muslims for close to 700 years and 200 years by the British. When they got freedom in 1947 the Hindu psyche was very different and believed more in accommodation and peaceful existence. The Indian leader Nehru had no vision to restore India to its ancient glory, unlike Mao. He was unfortunately an Englishman in the guise of an Indian and he tried to enforce English ideas on the Indians. At the same time made no attempt to integrate society. This was to have a disastrous effect on the economic development of India.

Different paths

Both countries India and China adopted different paths and different political systems. The Indians adopted democracy and a constitution which drew its inspiration from the Westminister model prevalent in England. They however fine-tuned the Constitution to include obnoxious provision of reservation in jobs and educational institutions on the basis of caste. This was one of the biggest blunders committed by the Indian political leadership at that time led by the Congress party. To be fair to the man who piloted the Constitution Dr. Ambedkar; he had made a provision that these reservations were only to be for 15 years but political compulsions and vote bank politics have ensured that these reservations not only continue into the present age but have also become more encompassing.

Frank Moraes had once referred to the Hindus as the "Meek and mild Hindu. This now came to the fore as the Hindu leader Gandhi not only accepted the partition of the country on religious lines but also allowed the various minorities in India to continue to have their own personal laws. The Indian government set up special laws in some of the states like Kashmir and the Northeast frontier areas which were insulated from the rest of the country. Free travel and settlement in these areas were banned and this led to further separatism. The Indians could not subdue Kashmir because Pandit Nehru had created article 370 which not only allowed Kashmir a separate flag and constitution but also insulated it from the rest of the country. Indians could not buy land in Kashmir and Indian laws were automatically not applicable in the state.

In 2019 this article was removed from the Constitution but by then a lot of water has flown down the Ganga and the situation in Kashmir had deteriorated to a great extent. When India was divided into Pakistan and India the religious animosity had led to hundreds and thousands being killed into what has been termed as the partition riots. The hangover of that has continued and the state of Pakistan has been fomenting an insurrection in the Kashmir Valley. The Indians allowed matters to deteriorate so much that Islamic militants began to call the shots in Kashmir and the Hindu minority was expelled with the Indian government being a passive bystander.

In the Northeast also on the plea of Pandit Nehru to keep the culture of the North Eastern people intact, no development took place and no other Indian could go and set up an industry or do anything there. This again bred separatism and the Nagas went into a revolution wanting an independent country and have been fighting for the last 65 years.

Even in central India in almost 4 states a group called the Maoists who draw inspiration from Marxism have been waging a war against the Indian state for close to 4 decades and the Indian state has not been able to crack it.

There are also fissiparous tendencies in the country based on language. The ball was set in motion by Pandit Nehru who wrongly believed that it was a good idea to divide India into linguistic lines. It must be noted that for almost 4000 years of Indian history India was never divided on a linguistic basis but Nehru did the unthinkable with the result that India developed fissiparous tendencies.

The Chinese followed a different path and set up a dictatorship. The Chinese occupied Tibet and Sinkiang and at the same time, unlike the Indians, they were extremely brutal and crushed the revolt that had simmered in both the places. The Chinese had no protective laws for the local people and both the states allowed people from China to come and settle thus changing the demographic composition. China was also put under a communist dictatorship and anybody opposing the central leadership was carted away to education camps to be reformed.

While the Indian leader Nehru lived in a dream world, his counterpart Chairman Mao had different ideas. He was a practical man who began to expand Chinese influence and China began to reclaim all the areas which were part of the Ming Dynasty. Nehru on the other hand never thought of any proactive policy but even the areas which had been taken over by the British were allowed to go to seed and India lost control of them. India lost special rights in Tibet because of Pandit Nehru. Besides India lost the entire Aksai Chin to China which occupied it. This area is almost 37 thousand sq mi.²

Price of progress

Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in his 'Discovery of India' has said that a strong China is always an expansionist China. The Communist Party of China had a one point agenda to expand the frontiers of China to the old borders of the Ming dynasty but also to build up the military-industrial complex. This was done with an iron hand but at the same time, one will have to accept that the Communist party leadership went about their part as strong nationalists.

The Chinese Communists were extremely pragmatic and after the collapse of the Soviet Union realized that the economic theory of Karl Marx is meaningless. They brought in controlled capitalism and allowed the industry to flourish. They did away with workers' rights which to many looks unthinkable in a Marxist state.

As the Chinese had a dictatorship there was no dissent, the entire nation was marching along one line to breach the gap from poverty to the modern age. Within a space of seven decades, the Chinese copied western designs and patents with impunity and without paying any royalty. They were able to carry out the great leap forward and an agrarian economy that was way behind India suddenly rose to become the second-biggest economy in the world with a GDP close to $15 trillion.

There was a spillover of this burgeoning economy and one of the biggest was the eradication of poverty and the increase in the per capita income of the average Chinese. All this would not have been possible if the Chinese did not have a unity government that allowed no dissent. One does not know how the Chinese people feel because they have not known democracy but at the same time have seen progress and improvement in national health. One example of this is the Chinese winning close to 400 medals in the Olympics.

India had a headstart over China in 1948 but the type of government the Indians adopted for with all its facets has not given the required results. The Indian leadership also dominated more by the history and with a religious divide in the country never thought beyond India with the result the Indian state never projected its power. India declared itself a socialist state as Nehru was enamored of the Russian development under Stalin. The net result was that the core sectors of the Indian economy were controlled by the state and free enterprise stifled. Laws were so framed in favor of workers that it became next to impossible to run a big industry in India.

In 1992 the Indians realized they were lagging behind the rest of the Asian nations and they carried out some changes but the obnoxious labor laws have remained and infrastructure has not been built up to allow the setting up of the industry. Besides, there are regular agitations to give jobs only to the sons of the soil i.e the local state with the result that the cohesiveness of the nation is not there.

The Indian did not attempt to manufacture anything in India and because of the nexus between political parties and the civil bureaucracy the country began to import most of the items. This was done because of a financial cut being given as a bribe to the various people who mattered. One facet of Indian political life is the extreme corruption and the billions of dollars in kickbacks to the politicians and the bureaucracy. There was a vested interest not to develop anything in the country.

It is only now after 70 years that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has formulated a policy to 'make in India' everything but to bridge the inactivity of the last seven decades is like cleaning the Augean stables.


Final Thoughts

India has progressed but compared to China, India is behind by at least three decades. As per the government of India figures, almost 25% of the population is still below the poverty line and the per capita consumption of protein and foodgrain per Indian is very low. 50% of Indian women are anemic and a large number of children because of lack of protein have stunted growth. The benefits of modern society have not come down to the man in the village because everywhere it is politics which rules the roost. Politicians in India are among the richest in the country. One may well ask when there is no regular pay for a politician how come the politicians are the richest in India. This is a question which people can answer on their own. This has led to dynastic politics. Another sad aspect of Indian politics is that voting is caste and sectarian oriented. Without stating a percentage I will state that an innumerable number of politicians elected to the state legislative Assembly and Parliament had criminal antecedents.

The Indian GDP is 1/5 of China and the per capita income also is 1/5 of China. Poverty in India is not eradicated and India has the dubious distinction of being the largest importer of arms in the world. In contrast, China is self-sufficient and they have also eradicated poverty.

The question finally comes whether it was worth for India to go in for democracy on the Westminister model. Would it not have been better if the Hindu leader Gandhi had opted for an authoritative regime but then it was against his philosophy. There is however a silver lining to the dark cloud and that is the coming of Narendra Modi. The old saying that the hour friends the man is true. Each of the great powers has had leaders who thought ahead and moved forward. Modi is not exactly there at the moment but at least he's attempting. The shackles of the last seven decades however inhibit him.

The basic aim of a country is to keep the people well-fed and healthy. One may well ask whether the Indians state has achieved this in contrast to China. Does it mean that democracy versus dictatorship is a failure? I wonder who can answer this question.


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