Monday, May 25, 2009

What India can learn from China - 2. To get rich is glorious

In the spring of 1992, Deng Xiaoping visited Shenzhen and uttered 9 words that changed China. “To get rich is glorious, Poverty is not socialism”, he said. The rest is history.

Remember, where China was at the end of the Cultural Revolution and the Mao era. For Deng to say that is the most visionary thing that has happened in the world in the 20th century. Some 300 million people were yanked from abject poverty to a good standard of living in a very short period. Whatever may be his other faults, for this achievement alone, he is one of the greatest leaders of that century.

In China, business and economic activity is considered glorious. There is little backlash against industry. Agriculture and industry do not confront as much as in India. The migrant labour that has enabled China’s manufacturing miracle all came from agriculture, willingly. Businessmen are not generally seen in China as rogues . The mindset of the people in China is massively in favour of economic advancement. It is not glorious to be poor.

In India, poverty is glorified. Political leaders fall over themselves to be pro poor and anti rich. Even as a society, Indians tend to be apologetic about being rich and glorious about being poor. This is extremely hypocritical; as a nation Indians are as money minded as the rest of the world, but somehow its not OK to be so overtly. Consequently industry is seen with suspicion. Much of the economic policy is therefore warped.

In China, the poor are given opportunities to get rich. In India, the poor are subsidised to remain poor. In China, policies are pro industry. In India, policies are allegedly pro poor. In China, they create wealth before they think of redistribution. In India, they think of redistribution before they create wealth. That’s partly why China runs a surplus budget and India a deficit one. The average Indian feels happy when a rich man is pulled down. The average Chinese is happy when he joins in being a rich man.

So India, adopt a new mantra. I suggest all Indians recite this every day – To get rich is glorious; poverty is not socialism.

PS : There is some doubt as to whether Deng Xiaoping actually said those words. The Chinese text (Deng did not speak English) is not widely known. But whether he actually said it or not, that’s what people believe and that’s what the government has acted on.