India’s Chinese Dream

SEOUL – In recent years, China and India have both emerged as global economic superpowers, with China leading the way. But, with Chinese growth slowing and the need for structural change becoming increasingly acute, will the economic-reform efforts of India’s new prime minister, Narendra Modi, enable the country to catch up?

Since the 1980s, China has experienced unprecedented economic growth, fueled by abundant low-cost labor, high saving and investment rates, substantial market reforms, outward-oriented policies, and prudent macroeconomic management. Its leaders now hope to achieve high-income status by developing more technologically sophisticated industries.

India’s economic performance has been less remarkable. Economic growth began to accelerate dramatically in the early 1990s, owing to trade liberalization and other economic reforms. Then reforms stalled, the fiscal and current-account deficits soared, and annual GDP growth fell to 4-5%.

As a result, China has pulled ahead, with per capita income last year standing at $11,850 – more than double India’s $5,350. The question now is whether Modi’s push for faster growth can narrow the income gap in the coming decades.