Beyond Hubris: China and India, Before and After Reforms

07 Jan 2019

Ashwani Saith

Venue: IIC
Time: 3:00 PM


Overlooked in China’s celebrations of the 40th anniversary of its Reforms are the profound contributions made by the prior era of Maoist high collectivism in laying the foundations for post-Reform market success. By the point of inflexion in 1978, China had already dramatically outperformed India, and Chinese advantage has widened in subsequent decades. As both countries seek their place in the sun, they enter a rapidly and radically reordered global configuration, as Chinese investments and economic performance become a key driver of future Indian, and arguably global growth. Attempts to stifle China, as through the trade wars, while serving narrow domestic political ambitions, are likely to impose severe costs across the global economy. From an Indian perspective, pragmatism should trump hubris: in relation to China, India is now a follower economy that, for the foreseeable future, should seek and exploit strategic opportunities and complementarities in the Chinese economic slipstream.  On its side, China equally needs to make haste slowly, to temper its vaulting ambition and premature triumphalism over an imagined global glory: it too is plunging into uncharted treacherous waters with its Belt-and-Road Initiative which conceivably could overstretch its economic reach, embroil it in bilateral and multilateral political contestations, thereby undermining the sustainability of its national trajectory. Much rides globally on Chinese success, though this could potentially intensify and push environmental challenges beyond the tipping point; equally, Chinese failure would also exact a heavy price, if in different forms. Clearly, cooperation and listening, and not confrontation and telling, is the call of the day – but will this happen? The old order changeth …. We live indeed in interesting times.

About the Speaker

Prof. Ashwani Saith has held research and teaching positions at the Delhi School of Economics; Faculty of Economics, Cambridge; Queen Elizabeth House, Oxford; he was the first Chair of Development Studies and Head of the Development Studies Institute, London School of Economics. He has served on the editorial boards of several academic journals, including: Development and Change, Journal of Development Studies; Journal of Peasant Studies; Journal of Agrarian Change; Indian Journal of Labour Economics; and Indian Journal of Human Development. The regional focus of his research has been principally on India and China, drawing on extensive fieldwork in rural India since the 1960's and in rural China since 1979. He has written on various aspects of Chinese development.



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