Amazing China: Why is the world refusing to learn from it?

I recently returned from China. During my short visit of nine days I travelled to Beijing, Xi’an (old capital of China), Guilin and Shanghai.

My main purpose was to find out if China will collapse just like the Former Soviet Union (FSU).

Having spent over six years advising governments in Georgia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan andTurkmenistan to reform their oil sector, I had good insight into the reasons for the failure of FSU.

Since China is also supposed to be a communist country, I thought China may also suffer from the same problems. However, the reality could not havebeen more different.

With very few exceptions, most attribute the phenomenal progress of China to its dictatorial rule which ignores human rights. India and China started the long development journey around early 1950s more or less with similar low per capita income.

China was able to control population growth by enforcing one child per family successfully. India has been able to bring down the population growth only slowly.

China will face the problem of aging population soon while India may fail to reap the potential demographic dividend because of its failure to improve the education sector.

Based on the purchasing power parity, it can be argued that China may already be the largest economy though on per capita basis it ranks 93rd while India ranks 133th.

One may disagree with these numbers and argue that they do not give a true picture of China. But the imposing skyline of Shanghai or miles of very efficient freeways with lane discipline or inexpensive subway train systems in cities and high speed railways between cities or absence of beggars (I saw only one beggar, and Chinese critiques point out that beggars are prevented from tourist areas), or the only Maglev train in the world which travels at 430 km per hour clearly show that China has achieved unbelievable level of progress since the end of Mao’s era and the beginning of Deng Xiaoping in 1978 to adapt free market economy.

I was searching for garbage every where I went. But I could not find any.

Without exception, toilets were in reasonably clean conditions while most were world class.

Roads we have travelled on were without any pot holes. It is difficult to find such  roads even in the US. Shanghai is more imposing than Manhattan without the slums of Harlem and crowds of Times Square, but with efficient and cheap public transportation.

Skyline of Shanghai is comparable to any city in the US but completed in less than 25 years!

Today, China’s economy is not under the spell of Communism though the government structure is one party rule of  Communists. It is also true that in today’s China, human rights are violated with limited freedom for free thinking.

Press freedom is totally absent. Because of these attributes, there is a tendency on the part of the intelligentsia in developed countries and even in India that there is nothing to learn from China.

The underlying assumption is that if a country has dictatorial regime, it is easy to achieve economic development (measured in terms of GNP).

Thus, China’s development is not a great success and it is just a question of time, that it will also collapse because of its own inherent weakness.

They point out at more than 20 per cent of vacant buildings and also massive loans by the banks to predict the demise of economic miracle.

But, this may turn out to be just a wishful thinking on their part. Let us also ask how many countries with dictatorial regimes have succeeded before ignoring to learn from Chinese progress.

Indian democracy

Let us look at India. Do we really have a democratic rule where we elect people-based on their merit and their potential contribution?

If we have true democracy, many dynastic rules would have come to an end. With the election of Modi as the PM, there is some hope now.

On the other hand, in China, though it is one party rule, they are able to get meritorious and able leaders who come up through the grass roots so far.

Also, for most part, their bureaucracy is completely driven by merit since they do not have the baggage of history of caste-based discrimination.

But even these things do not fully explain the real success.

In my opinion, the real reason is the great importance given by Chinese to educate their children from elementary to high school to university levels.

Literacy rate is very high there. Their school system is able to impart quality education and this is reflected in China leading on PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) scores. India does not even take part in these tests.
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In conclusion, let us not ignore the Chinese economic development by attributing all to dictatorial rule blindsided by absence of human rights.

What is the significance of human rights to those poor in India who do not have proper housing nor food to eat? In what ways more than 16,000 homeless in San Francisco derive benefit from human rights in the US?

This is not to argue that human rights is not important.

But that should not be an over powering factor to ignore China’s development. We should attempt to study Chinese system with an open mind to find out how they succeeded to eliminate extreme poverty which is present every where in India.

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