China’s success has feed the notion that there is something of a Faustian bargain between economic prosperity and democratic governance. This view was especially prominent in the “Asian values” debate of the mid-1990s (here and here) but it persists in the conventional wisdom that India’s messy democracy is a hindrance to the country’s efforts to catch up with China.
Some years ago, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof opined that due to political disorder Indian “economic policy-making isn’t nearly as shrewd, pro-growth or farsighted as China’s.” More recently, Charlie Munger, Warren Buffett’s long-time business partner, averred that while the Chinese government “can get things done,” the Indian system is mired in “paralysis.”
In view of China’s awe-inspiring performance, it is thus easy to dismiss the profusion of wild rumors that came out of Beijing in recent days. But their proliferation – driven largely by a system of governance explicitly designed to frustrate inquiry by citizens and media alike – indicates that high-level political strife of some kind is occurring behind closely-guarded scenes.
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