Just read a very interesting post, entitled, “Will India Challenge China? Not yet.” The post is by GE Anderson over at the ChinaBizGov blog. I know GE Anderson to be one very smart guy (with a Ph.d and an upcoming book to prove it) and one damn fine analyst of things China, particularly those things relating to China’s auto industry.

He wrote his post on India after having spent a couple of weeks there. 

Now before anyone points out the shortcomings of views based on a two week visit, let me stop you by saying I both agree and disagree with you (only we lawyers can say things like that). I disagree because one can get a “sense” of a country in two weeks and then use that sense, coupled with previous readings, to glean and then convey one’s impressions. I buy into the idea that first impressions are far more accurate than often credited and I am a huge fan of the book, Blink.

Before I agree with you, I would like to note that I have never been to India and I do not purport to know terribly much about the country. When I was a freshman in college, my freshman tutorial was on India, but since I read only 4 of the 17 books assigned (who the hell assigns 17 books in a freshman tutorial anyway?), I can hardly claim much expertise from that. I should also note that my father served in India during World War II (who the hell serves in India, anyway?) and he absolutely hated the place from the moment he got there to the moment he left. He spent most of his time in New Delhi, which, as I understand it, is a tough place to love. Anyway, his views of the place have always (rightly or wrongly) overly influenced mine. There is one image that has never escaped him (nor me) and that was his arrival into New Delhi by train, where he saw hundreds/thousands of people squatting by the tracks and defecating. He told me this but once and I have never forgotten it.

When I was vacationing in HoiAn, Vietnam, last year, I met a couple of sisters from England who were there doing charity work. One of the sisters lives in London, the other in Goa, India. The one from London had talked of going to India for the charity work, but the one from Goa had dissuaded her by saying that the “entire country smells of human feces from the moment you get there until the moment you leave.” Since hearing that comment I have asked about a dozen people who have been to India whether that is true or not and about half said “yes” and about half said “no.”I am concerned that Dr. Anderson too has been overly influenced in his assessment of India by what I will call the “feces factor,” for lack of a better term.

Dr. Anderson’s post is absolutely excellent, but as an assessment of India’s ability to compete with China, I worry that it leans too much towards describing filth and chaos. Though you can absolutely count me among those who will go a long way to avoid filth and chaos, I am just not sure how relevant that is in assessing a country’s economic future.

india has its problems but it is moving forward economically. China has its problems (some the same as India, some different), but it is moving forward economically.

But let’s get to the core of this. Can India compete with China? Is that a stupid question in that India already competes (and beats) China in many things, including IT and pharma?  Why must we compare the two? And why India and not Indonesia or Vietnam or Brazil or ….? What is it with the whole India versus China thing anyway?

I’m “opening up the “microphones” here so have at it. But please nobody comment without first reading Dr. Anderson’s post.