I recently read the book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua, who is of Chinese origin and settled in the United States. The book created a great flutter among parents in the western world since it recommended a strict, disciplinarian, even harsh form of parenting that westerners seemed to find appalling.
Chua’s parenting methods aside, what was really thought provoking to me was the difference in the mindset; the attitude of the average Chinese person and the average Indian person. When people compare the Chinese story with the Indian one, there are many ways in which I think India wins out, but there are others where the Chinese are indubitably ahead of us.
For the Chinese there is no excuse for not winning
Grit, determination, perseverance, sheer hard work – this is what typifies the Chinese. You only have to take one look at the medals tally in any international sports event to see that the Chinese are totally committed to winning. There are no half measures and there is no excuse for losing. Lack of ability is no justification – one simply has to try harder and work more.
This is in sharp contrast with India’s abysmal performance in practically any sporting arena (save cricket) – where all manner of excuses are offered: we don’t have a culture of sports, the Indian physique or diet is not suited excelling in sport, we don’t have the resources, we don’t have the governmental help or the sporting infrastructure.
China has been more willing to change
The Chinese have come a long way from their communist past to the aggressively free market ethos of today. The Chinese leadership decided that the development model they had wasn’t working as well, and so they created a whole new development model based on completely different principles; even those diametrically opposite to the communist ideology.
One of the reasons why investing in China is so much easier and more attractive to global investors than doing so in India is that the Chinese have made it so. They have relaxed trade barriers and made it easier for foreigners to operate there. By contrast the scary amounts of red tape, complicated systems and procedural delays in India means that foreigners are literally scared away. Quite simply it is the plodding gait of the ‘Indian elephant’ that is in such sharp contrast to the fiercely competitive ‘Chinese Dragon’.
There is no ‘chalta hai’ attitude for the Chinese
If something is needed to be done, it will be done and it will be done well. We Indians are all too willing to accept mediocrity – a pot holed road will get us from point A to B, so what if it makes the journey slower or less comfortable? It pains me to admit it, but the Chinese work ethic is quite simply superior to the Indian work ethic.
The Indian willingness to cut corners, paper over the cracks and grease palms to get our own way is a big hurdle in our development. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that corruption doesn’t exist in China. They may be as corrupt as us, but that doesn’t prevent the general populace from getting things done, fast, well, efficiently and for the greater good.
Where India wins out over the Chinese
It actually pained my fiercely patriotic heart to have to admit all the ways in which the Chinese Dragon trumps the Indian elephant and in fact there are several reasons why I feel the Indian story will triumph over the Chinese story in the long run:
– Our strong and vibrant democracy is the first reason. We have certain freedoms and rights that the Chinese cannot even dream of. The Chinese citizen never gets to express certain opinions and never gets to do the things that his government doesn’t want him to.
– our constitution is a piece of legislation that we can take pride it – We Indians can be justly proud of the fundamental rights and liberties that our constitution grants us. Though on the face of it, the Chinese constitution allows its citizens certain freedoms, the Tiananmen Square incident did in fact occur. In India this would never happen – if something like this were to occur, no government could possibly survive it. India came perilously close to a dictatorship during the Emergency (26 June 1975 – 21 March 1977) – it is a triumph of our democracy that the Emergency was not permitted to last beyond 21 months.
– India has among the youngest populations in the world; a greater proportion of the population is young and productive. China on the other hand is an aging nation. This is thanks to the one-child-policy that their citizens were forced to endure. This was of course meant to arrest population growth – to be sure this aim was accomplished, but the country is now saddled with an aging populace, with fewer productive individuals and more people in need of care and support.
– Our diversity in terms of language, race, religion, culture, climate, topography and more is unparalleled in the world. While sometimes this diversity hobbles us by creating conflict, for the most part it is our strength.
So in conclusion I have to say; no matter that ferocity of the dragon currently outpaces the plodding gait of the elephant; it is the gentle giant that will win out in the end!