Both are paired as rising powers. China got the head-start, but India is still in fits & starts! They have matching population of over a billion each, with China already proven their credentials with a no-nonsense approach to whatever they feel is their due, muscling-in or sometimes, even with great finesse, the consummate gentleman! Indian leaders have to watch their backs, as elections have to be factored-in with many waiting in the wings to take advantage of any slip-up or even a perceived one. That is democracy, especially in India, where emotions rule more than reason, sometimes!
The world is feeling the heat of China’s relentless march over the last thirty years. They are determined to make-up for the lost Mao years, having learnt the lessons in earnest. They have the inner urge to better everyone else; be it in sports, infrastructure, buildings & outdoing their earlier masterpieces! While America & Europe are struggling to finance basic infrastructure, with huge spending cuts, China is on a feeding frenzy and finance seemingly unlimited! They have overtaken Japan as the number two economy in the world and are number one in certain parameters, like the number of vehicles sold! A top-down, no-nonsense approach, which brooks no interference from outside or inside, has been the corner-stone for their break-neck speed in outpacing all others!
India is compared to an elephant; lumbering a step forward and even two back; the price they are ready to pay for democracy, sometimes more of demo-crazy. The urge to realize their potential is evident, but bureaucracy and corruption hold them back. Rule of law is also slack, influence peddling by the privileged acts as a dampener. The recently concluded Commonwealth Games 2010 generated more news off track, with last minute efforts, after hue and cry, to patch things up; but the damage was already done to its aspirations for hosting bigger events.
India’s haphazard progress makes their people question the benefits of full blown democracy. Can it deliver? What use freedom, if many have to go hungry & remain poor, while China has succeeded in making tremendous progress? Indonesia has been released from the iron-grip of the Suharto Era, but the progress they achieved during the thirty years under Suharto was quite remarkable. President Suharto, unlike his predecessor Sukarno, wanted good relations with all his neighbors; despite Indonesia being the dominant country in the South East Asia region. India has not had much success on this score!
The proof of the pudding is the eating! The neighbors of China & India are more aligned with China as they know which side of the bread is butter! Or, it could be, they cannot take liberties with China, while India is less sure of its own policies towards others, due to endless politicking at home. They portray a divided house; so who will take them seriously, when they themselves do not? Japan brutalized China in the world war, but they do not hold that for business, investment & trade. Even a recent spat was compromised over commercial considerations.
Without freedom, all other success is illusory, but democracy without progress & uplifting the lives of their people is also likewise; what use freedom that is misused for the benefit of the very few, who are treated above law. It is a dog-eat-dog world where China is powering ahead of others, with economic progress as an end-in-itself. Everything else is secondary or does not even count! Indians will feel suffocated at such a take to life; however, they feel short-changed at their poor progress and endemic corruption. Chinese feel that India is not even a functioning anarchy, while Indians feel progress without basic participation by the people is hollow. Indians enjoy their unlimited freedom; nevertheless, they fondly wish for progress to match China’s! They are their own worst critics, and unable to prevent themselves going around in circles!