Ideology, centralisation and corruption set different paces of progress


Some analysts have also pointed to rampant corruption in India as a reason why the country’s infrastructure buildout has lagged so far behind China’s.

“Indian policymakers have allowed the private sector the chance to profitably create infrastructure in return for sharing the spoils,” says Ritika Mankar Mukherjee, senior economist at Ambit Capital in Mumbai. “Not surprisingly, therefore, some of the biggest corruption scams . . . in India in the Noughties related to the infrastructure sector.”

Analysts and participants in Chinese infrastructure construction say that corruption in China is equally egregious, however. The main difference is that corruption scandals in India are far more frequently exposed by the country’s vigorous and free press compared with China, where the ruling Communist party exercises very tight control over all forms of media.

The Indian and Chinese approaches to urban slum dwelling and clearances are another area where the difference between their political systems is thrown into sharp relief.

In China, all citizens are classified under the hukou household registration system that decides what benefits, such as education and healthcare, they receive from the state. There are nearly 300m internal “migrant workers” in China living away from their place of registration and most of these people find it impossible to transfer their hukou to their place of work. This makes their lives in the city temporary and tenuous and allows the authorities to remove them as necessary.

Meanwhile, in India, people are largely free to migrate to the cities and settle into the massive slums that ring every large city. Slum clearances are often met with stiff opposition.

Given its relative economic success in recent decades, China is becoming a model of development for other countries from the “global south”.