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India – 163 years behind China?

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February 12, 2007

India – 163 years behind China?

Bruce Einhorn

Some Asiatech readers complain that I'm anti-India, that I spend too much time comparing India to China, and that in these comparisons all too often India comes out looking bad. But of course lots of top Indian officials do the same thing. For instance: Gangan Prathap, the top scientist at the Centre for Mathematical Modelling and Computer Simulation in Banaglore. The C-MMACS, which got its start in the late 1980s by India’s Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, has its offices on the campus of the National Aerospace Laboratories, so it’s safe to say that it’s not peopled by a bunch of India-haters. Yet Prathap, the scientist-in-charge of the center, the other day made headlines with his unfavorable comparison of India to China. According to a report in Indian newspaper The Telegraph, Prathap says that India is more than a century and a half behind China when it comes to sci-tech human resources. According to the Telegraph’s report, “India will take at least 163 years to match China’s research workforce of 850,000 even if Beijing were to freeze the number today.” More: Prathap “has now used simple school algebra to show that even if India’s 4,500 annual science doctorates were to join the 115,000-strong science and technology workforce, the country won’t be able to touch the figure of 850,000 until 2170 AD.”

And Prathap is not the only Indian scientist pointing out that people shouldn’t fool themselves into thinking that success in IT outsourcing and generic drugmaking mean India’s rise as a high-tech power is a sure thing. For instance, the Telegraph quotes Rajesh Kochchar, former director of the National Institute of Science Technology and Development Studies, saying “We’ve lulled ourselves into thinking we’re doing great things.” The Telegraph also quotes C.N.R. Rao, head of the Scientific Advisory Committee to the Prime Minister, bemoaning the situation: “India’s share of global research publications in science has dropped to unbelievably low levels.” Fortunately, Indian officials like these realize that it's useful to compare their country's progress (or lack thereof) with that of the other would-be Asian superpower.

02:27 AM


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Who is ahead, China or India? from Asia Business

BusinessWeek blogger, Bruce Einhorn on his post, has done some simple calculation and came up with this number:

In the matter of science-technology human resource, India is 163 years behind China

Citing the statistics that currently China has 850,000 w... [Read More]

Tracked on February 14, 2007 03:46 AM

In my opinion, this is a very fair judgement that India is behind China 163 years! But not only in science realm, but also National strength, Economic power, standard of infrastructure and many more! I think, the comparison between China and India from Bruce is to give most Indian people an idea that how much China is way leading ahead of India, why India is so lagged behind! Because there are too many Indians in India who believe their country now is already on the top of world!!

Posted by: Mike at February 13, 2007 11:50 AM


No need say bad things about India. As a Chinese I know many of our science researchers are really bad in creativity and work motivation because research institutions in China only looks for projects that can make quick money.

China and India is growing up fast. Each countries has its own science development system. It's stupid to compare one over another.

Mr.Bruce Einhorn, I think your topics are quiet controversal. You privous articles' comments coused a lot of argument between Chinese and Indian reader. I hope you realize that.


Posted by: A Chinese at February 14, 2007 12:57 AM

I'm from India and think Bruce has the right idea. It's a good thing to get such constructive criticism. There are places where China would need to develop and there are places where India needs to develop. There are quite a few parallels in ideals and general "life" concepts between the two countries, so the comparison is quite a good place to start off. Rather than start a flame war between Chinese and Indian readers, I think it's good input to tell us where we need to improve and would provide motivation to get us off our behinds to do something to progress.

Posted by: Sunil De at February 14, 2007 03:41 AM

I am an Indian staying in the US for last few years. Everytime there is a discussion about the growth in the Asian countries, India and China steal the limelight. Hence it really becomes necessary to figure out, how well both countries have come up in terms of progress.

Having spent most of my life in India, I can say for sure there has been a gradual development in all aspects. But as Mr. Kochchar points out progress in IT is not something to be considered as an overall progress by India. I truly feel it's just an icing on the cake, with the reality might be different. India seriously lacks a lot in infrastructure compared to China, and there are many topics on this website which goes on to show the development of China in terms of infrastructure. I am no mathematical wizard, but definitely I can say we (India) do lag behind China when you take progress in whole perspective..just not one sector.

India is making big strides and will continue to do so...but it needs to built a stable base on which further progress can be built !!!!!

Posted by: S Deo at February 14, 2007 01:23 PM

It's obvious that China is way way ahead of India in Education, economy, science & tech etc etc. But I think 163 years is not correct because as I know that only half of the PhD from China is good quality

Posted by: ming at February 14, 2007 08:46 PM

I wonder what is the basis of the calculations, has Prathap or Bruce defined the comparison sets what who are all included and who is not...Another point is just basing the complete analysis on number of people and that too when the data sources thenselves not very reliable...the views expressed here themselves are not based on any scientific or ...also for the sake of knowledge of Bruce let me tell you...Telegraph is not a national newspaper it is a regional publication based out of Calcutta and views expressed there-in are highly Communist baised.

I have no problem if the comparisons have a scientific basis and India lags behind but this kind of baseless unscientific comparisons and reaching the magic number 163 years just goes on to confirm what your readers complain about....

Posted by: raman at February 15, 2007 12:23 AM

Thanks to Mr. Bruce Einhorn for giving us Indians a wakeup-call to reality; and bringing to light some important facts not reported in the popular media. Acknowledging the gaps/faults to be fixed is an important (first) step in making progress - and it is time we look at these articles as a valuable input in this regard.

Posted by: kartheek at February 15, 2007 02:43 AM

I think numbers do lie sometimes. The government of China put more emphasis on quantity than quality. It has to do with the fact that it is a system of centralized government where Beijing sends down policies and goals in numbers for local administrations to meet. Numerous scandles have come out of China's academia in recent years, such as the plagierized CPU design by a well-known researcher. Even though as a Chinese I would like to see China's progress, I have a lot of doubts about whether China's quantity-over-quality approach is really working.

It seems to me that India has a more market oriented approach in its promotion of science and technology. With more government support, India can probably make great progress in closing the number gap. But how meaningful are those numbers is something India has to carefully consider.

Posted by: HC at February 15, 2007 03:05 PM

It is obvious Mr. Einhorn did not mean 163 years in literal terms. Everyone can see that. I think he is doing a big favor for the Indians by injecting a dose of reality into the Indian minds.

I am being told again and again by many people (non-Indians) that many (if not most) Indians believe (literally) their country is the most powerful and influential in the world second only to US. The hearsay is confirmed by a recent survery by Chicago Council. I would quote a paragraph as follows:

"Although Indians see themselves as already an important player in the world, second only to the United States, other countries give it a less exalted global role. Chinese, American and South Korean respondents all ranked India as the least influential among nine powerful countries: the United States, China, Japan, the European Union, France, Great Britain and Germany. Chinese and Americans expect India’s influence to rise, but not by much. The Chinese see India as rising from an average of 6.1 to 6.5 but remaining in last place. Americans see it as rising from 4.8 to 5.4, surpassing France."

Here is another interesting related article

Posted by: Chuck at February 15, 2007 10:42 PM

Why did Mr. Einhorn even bother to render the disservice considered by many Indians? I'd prefer Indians keeping reading

such as

India Shining!

!ncredible !ndia!

"The fastest democratic free market in the world" campaign in Davos 2005§ion_id=22&newsid=51789&spcl=no

Posted by: Chuck at February 15, 2007 11:15 PM

this is my second post to bruce article! my standpoint is that Indian people need to fully understand your country true overall national strength! you canot live in a daydream that India is only second to US in this world!! Indian people do need to admit a fact that China is at very least 30 years ahead of India in terms of modernisation! just like how Chinese people admit a fact that Japan is 30 years ahead of China! majority Chinese people NEVER ever dream that China can catch up Japan one day although China's economy growth is 10% each year, maybe not even getting close! This is the gap between Japan and China, so the same gap between China and India! does it make sense?

Posted by: Mike at February 16, 2007 11:05 AM

You're a stirrer Bruce. But looks like you are getting lots of bites. Well done.

Posted by: Steven Kempton at February 18, 2007 02:36 AM

Whether it's 163 years or just 16.3 years, it's the fact that China is indeed ahead of India -- when it comes to RDO (R&D Outsourcing/Offshoring) and ESO (Engineering Services Outsourcing/Offshoring).

And, guess what: This is pretty much the between-the-lines conclusion from NASSCOM.

Our site has a section titled, "Why China?" which gives a lot of details pertinent to this discussion.

Posted by: David Scott Lewis at February 20, 2007 10:41 AM

Did Prathap consider the numbers of the patents acquired by the Indian scientists working overseas? Of course, these patents will not help India. But these scientists are Indians. Ennalum ellam verum thaayolikala. India will definitely gain from the increasing reverse brain-drain resulting from the economic growth of india.

Posted by: Afsal at February 20, 2007 07:44 PM

China's patent filling in 2005 increased by 56.8% to 3910.

India's filling decreased from 679 in 2005 to 627 in 2006

That's a big difference in the numbers and the trend in the two countries

Posted by: Steven at February 21, 2007 04:50 PM


I have seen many of your blog covering many fields where India lags behind China such science, economical development and social welfare etc. However, there are two most important fields you have not yet covered that yet have most implications on world economy in this centuries. One is the widely documented average IQ difference between Indians and Chinese. If you GOOGLE “IQ and wealth of nation”, you will find many publications and articles on the 1 SD in IQ difference between Indian and Chinese. Historic stats also show a strong correlation between the fortune of a nation and its national IQ. That can well explain the more impressive advance China achieved even though India has a more market oriented economy. The other is the physical and mental toughness and endurance to succeed. This trait could not be better demonstrated by India’s near zero show-up in summer Olympic Games. For last four Summer Olympic Games, India has achieved ZERO gold medals for a population of more than a billion! Unless India can prove it can catch up in these two areas, I will not bet my money on India.

Posted by: steve at February 24, 2007 03:45 AM

The truth's always bitter! A lot of Indians who think India is tops are those that have never been out of India - and have no way of comparing for themselves how things are in other countries.

They are constantly fed this self-appreciating crap from the local media - with very little sprinkling of objective coverage.

Wake-up fellow Indians!

Posted by: Rich G at February 26, 2007 02:34 PM

II recently was on a trip to India after a gap of 2 years. And in that duration I had spent a lot of time covering the media regarding the growth and the leap of the “tiger”. Well my expectations during the visit were sadly shattered. I agree with Bruce as well as the number of other writers who have commented on the comparison between India and China. However, one factor not yet spoken of is that of self discipline, which is clearly lacking in almost 90% of the Indian population. A carefree attitude called "chalta hain" (translation: let it be why bother?) has been deeply rooted in the mindset of our population. Even though there are large investments in infrastructure the plight of the work is deplorable as not much is done after the job is completed to maintain and improve. Corruption hand in hand with politics creeps in. The state of roads, traffic, pollution and population with no strict guidelines to control and enforce just adds to the vows. It is great to see the figures of 8-9% GDP on paper but this growth has to channeled and for that every citizen is responsible.

Posted by: kedar at February 26, 2007 07:32 PM

to all the steves,chucks...and other western names who post here? are you guys chinese are westerners?? i guess if few writers write about india shining...then the whole of india thinks they are number 2 is it? actually you guys have not been to India. no one in India (except few writers like this pot stirrer Bruce) has time on their hands to compare where is china where is japan or america. people are busy making both ends meet. all i can say as an indian i am happy India is making progress, and people are finally sensing opportunity to do their things and unleash their creativity and enterpreneurship...finally as the economy opens up. a journey of thousand miles starts with a small step...may be we are 163 yrs or 163000 yrs behind china...that is ok with long as we can make food available to every indian that is the most important us.

Posted by: Mukundan at February 26, 2007 08:56 PM

I am an Indian pursuing PhD in designing new algorithm for optimization in Australia; and it took me over two year to create a perfect working algorithm as I have to spend some time to work part-time to partly earn my tuition fees. I didn’t leave India in search of big money but for making my future in field which is not considered by Indian Industries; believe me I could have designed the same algorithm in any Indian University within a year . I do not know, who was the first to act in the war between China and India, but I did learn that China have occupied most of our territories. Also, I did learn that most of the regional king/ prince agreed to join India state after its Independence; and I am quite doubtful about Chinese claims on Arunachal pradesh. I haven’t read about claims made by western/European authors about war, Arunachal Pradesh; but after having lived in Australia for more then two years I can only say, “most of their work are done to have a fame and name in media”. And may be there is no historical fact about how the people from (mind you its not white skin as most of not-fair skinned people with run away from you as you would look like characters in horror movies) Europe were involved in mass killing of local population in American, Australian continent; get yours act clean then talk of other people rights; on the top you talk of equality but under yours skin you think of back stabbing other people; once we mastered the art of computing you felt shaken and ran away, we challenge you to be creative and make yours own place; you come to learn about our science and culture and when we ask about yours, you make excuse; come on come out clean and don’t to back stabbing, which I had experienced in this lab. We (Indians) may be backward in many fields, sport, R&D, etc; I would say if all of Indian population are able to pursue his goal, Live healthy decent life, have no problems dealing with district officials, travel different in India and part of the world easily; I do not care what the world says about India as they are not the one to come to our rescue when we are in danger; they have the attitude to watch and wait. And they come to help with better media coverage to show how helpful they are. The other day an Australian was saying, he is a diamond merchant and had a horrible experience in Mumbai, India. I said him you should stop doing business in India and this will give a big jolt to sleeping lazy Indian officials; indirectly I said him, you went to India for yours own gain, India didn’t call you. We have to clean our own act to be the best in every sphere; believe me after my experience in this lab I have realised WE HAVE TO HELP OURSELF.

Posted by: Kumar at March 11, 2007 09:56 PM

So Mr.Kumar,

What made you got to Australia?Why did you leave India and when do you plan on coming back to our motherland India.

YOu talk so much about India,but you are are the first leave and run to Australia.If you are so happy in India then why leave.

I am an Indian and I hate people who talk so much yet leave India.

Posted by: Mehul Nanda Kumar at March 20, 2007 04:51 PM

There is no comparison between India and china. China is not decades but centuries ahead of India. The biggest problem with India is democracy where the biggest voting block is illiterate, not to insult the voting block but that is the reality. Now sticking with education, the politicians for the sake of getting votes have introduced 50% reservation in everything educational institutions,scentific positions, government etc. You might have scored 95 percentile but if you are in the so called forward caste you will not be able to make it but if you are from the so called backward caste even if you score 40 percentile you will still be able to make it. Now this is not an isolated instance but this is the norm, 50% of everything is reserved, with such weird social experiments how will India create scientific talent. China day by day is improving while the "great democracy" India is day by day crumbling. India is only going to become worse not better.

Posted by: prasant at April 3, 2007 07:13 PM

I am neither Chinese or Indian, but all I can tell is that Indian people have the biggest heart in the world. While the Chinese try to prove and are selfish (along with USA and most European countries), Indian people focus on what life is really about....What you think really matters before you die? To show that you built large buildings or to say that you helped decide...

Posted by: Maria at April 12, 2007 12:46 PM

Sensible constructive criticism.

Posted by: Bala at April 14, 2007 05:19 AM

Comparision between china and india has become a obsession for sick people in the west and india. China and India are two different countries, with different cultures. They have nothing in common except they both are in asia and have billion plus population. COMPARISION is stupid and idiotic. What makes more sense is suggestions on what both countries can do to improve their situation. I don't like this guy BRUCE he seems very shallow ,silly and stupid nothing important to write he is resorting this kind of stupid journalism. SICK GUY JUST SHUT UP AND DO SOMETHING IMPORTANT

Posted by: Ram at April 21, 2007 02:43 PM

(1) Numbers can decieve you if you are one of those who have the compulsive habit of extrapolating all trends "linearly" and drawing grand conclusions from it. Just 40-50 years ago someone could have worked out a similar calculation for Asia v.s. the west and conclude -"Asia will take 100+ years to catch up with West, if at all". But now Asia is catching up not in centuries, but within tens of decades; why? Because growth trends of Asia now are >> than that of 50 yrs ago. Linear extrapolation don't work everywhere.

(2) I read one of the commentator bring in IQ and olympics. This reminds me Einstein's quote- "Only two things are infinite - the universe and human stupidity". Posting such half-assed pseudo science/concepts, steve not only proves the latter but also belittles the standard in this site and of its content. IQ differences are because of socio-economics (there are also thousands of documentation on that by authentic scientists, not a hand ful of pseudoscientists) and is globally reducing on average and faster than any time in the past. And olympic failures is because of lack of investments in sports. Some governments don't care a crap to invest in sporting facilities for their people. Both can change and will change not only for India but ultimately the world, as they connect more and more to global economy.

(3) The fundamental trend: Underlying every trend of world economy (and usually very slow to be percieved in a single human lifetime), the fundamental trend is that - world economic center of mass (COM) and world population COM are coming closer, and closer, and closer. War, mis-governance, global warming, food-water crisis, health/education problems, etc, etc are slowing the process, but in the long run that is the fundamental trend/change thats happening in the world. Ultimately every human walking on earth will like to plug and play in this ever widening global economy, whenever circumstances become conducive for them to tap into oppurtunities that the world offers.

(4) Because of the above, China will overtake US. Not just because of the greatness of its government, not just because of its confucious values, but most fundamentally because it has a larger population. It is for same reason Japan could'nt overtake US as some linear-trend extrapolators thought it would a decade or two ago. In todays globally connected world, given enough time (atmost a few centuries), demography will trump all trends (esp. those that play over decades, like those related to quality of governance). Therefore I think, India will catch up with China, not in 2020, not in 2050, but surely before 2150. This is for no extraordinary skills of Indians , but for the mundane fact that UN predicts India will have the largest population some time this century. It will take "163" or more years if India does not increase its annual rate of doctorates, but it is stupid to assume that India will not enhance its education as its economy improves. Most of the Asian growth in science has happened in no earlier than last few decades. Every nation that has developed it economy has increased its science/tech output and so will India. In longer run, even Africa will consolidate its share in world economy.

Posted by: Avijit at April 27, 2007 12:50 PM

I feel India is actually ahead of China. The growth we witness in China is from foreign investment and not from strengths inherent in the Chinese economy. As Martin Wolf says in his book "Why Globalization Works", poor countries are poor for many reasons, but rich countries are rich for the same reasons and these reasons are 1. rule of law, 2. property rights 3. democracy and other things like a judicial system, financial institutions, etc. Though India is not doing well on some of these factors and that is why it is poor, China has a miserable record on all of the reasons that make a country rich.

Therefore, though India may not be economically ahead of China since it started the liberalization process a decade later, the fundamental institutions that can lead to prosperity are in place and thus I would consider it ahead of China. History has repeatedly proved this and it will prove it again.

Posted by: Dinesh at May 3, 2007 09:27 PM

Our fellow Hindus always like to bring the following to state that India is ahead of China:


2-Property Law

3-Rule of Law

Democracy or demoCRAZY is more likely. Caste system, massive child labor, massive poverty and more.

Rule of law in one of the most corrupted country of the world. China admit that there is big corruption and it fighting but whether it succeed or not at least acknowledge the problem first and then take the require step to fight it.

Property law is nothing more than a slogan in which many people in India lose land due to the SEZ project in which people get paid a misery for their house.

Keep dreaming since it is cheap and easy

Posted by: jcage at May 3, 2007 09:57 PM

Ahead or not doesn't really matter. What matters is :

1) 24hrs water and electricity

2) 100% literacy

3) affordable public transport

3) eliminate corruption (this will make 1,2 and 3 happen easily)

4) respect for public property

5) respect for others time

Posted by: ammadio at May 4, 2007 01:22 PM

jcage-by writing my fellow "hindus" you have disclosed your nationality pretty well.We all know about our friendly neighbours.

Reason india started this campaign for "India shining" was due to massive oppressive poverty,child labour, is saying that-with so many problems of third world,it could do so much..just imagine what it can achieve if these problems are removed.Indian people don't compare themselves with Chinese-They compare with their own condition 10-15 yrs ago.

Posted by: deepa at May 7, 2007 03:50 AM

guys use your brain and compare two countries.,

let first excercise a democratic election in china,then start compairing those,your eqation might be work raverse.

Posted by: himanshu patel at May 7, 2007 02:24 PM


I readeach and every comment, but I have not read anything which matches my opinion.

I have seen most part of the world, be it France, Italy, Spain, Norway , Malaysia or USA. I have met with people with grey hair and all say India sparkels not just shines. They were confident of India.

True wealth of India is democracy, energetic Youth and imaginaton of these yougsters. India is pragmatic in approach. We don't do PHD rather we prefer to do MBA to achieve what is necessary for the time being.

We beleive in ourselves and confident that we will surpass every nation before 2020.

India's growth comes from people at work and not pushed by the government. India is using money, energy and time very efficiently. I am sure that we will SUPERPOWER before anyone realises the same,


Posted by: Rahul Pratap at May 13, 2007 11:18 PM

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