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What’s the Difference between the Indians and the Chinese?


The C-Virus Pandemic has given different people the opportunity to find and look for a variety of options to occupy themselves. For me, it is thinking and writing. Its fun!

One issue which has always been of interest is the difference between the Indian people and the Chinese people because comparisons are constantly made of the difference in the growth rate and economic development of China and India over the last 30-35 years. The often-heard comment “Look at China”, “Why can’t you learn from China?” ; “Why don’t you emulate China?”.

A simplistic answer, of course, is the difference in political systems – the Communist Party of China runs China whereas it is an open question over 70 years plus of independence: “who runs India?”. A chaotic democracy. An Individualistic people. There are differences, huge, not only in the political and administrative systems, but, also in the kind of people we both are.

So, lets take a brief look at the differences between the Chinese people and the Indian people.

First, they are disciplined in China but less so outside China. As a citizen of a third country once said, the Chinese cut queues abroad, something they would never do in their own country. Indians, on the other hand, are indisciplined at home but, as Dr Abdul Kalam once said, and wrote, extremely disciplined outside India. Are the Chinese afraid inside their country? Are Indians afraid outside their country?

Second, Do the Chinese integrate easily with people of another country when they study or work there? It seems not. They are more comfortable within themselves. Language is, of course, a big factor. A distinguished Chinese Academic, with global exposure, posed this question last year: “we have very bright Chinese students in large numbers in USA, but why are they not doing as well as Indians in USA”? Essentially, Indians are comfortable in different places, in different cultures, in different systems. The English language helps. Hence, the many millions of the Indian Diaspora. And, Indians are particularly comfortable in USA. 200,000 plus students. 4 million odd Diaspora. And, occupying the CEO position in major corporates, Professors in the best American universities, Professional in Finance, Law, Medicine, Science, etc. Chinese are also doing well professionally but, perhaps, less in number. There is a cultural difference. There is a difference.

Third, the Chinese are clearly more competitive, more aggressive; the Indians less so, as a people. This may also account for the better economic performance of the Chinese whereas the Indians are generally lagging behind. Indians can also be competitive but there is a doubt whether its an exception or the rule. When it comes to drive and ambition, is there a difference? are the Chinese strong marathon runners whereas the Indian has less stamina and appetite for the continuous rough and tumble of getting ahead and ahead and ahead?

Fourth, the Chinese seem to be generally, expression-less and poker-faced, or so it seems to us, whereas the Indian is transparently emotional-reactions are obvious, difficult to hold back. This may be a somewhat one-sided view. To the Chinese, Indians may appear to be inscrutable. Indian emotion is rather obvious whereas the Chinese seem to be more resilient and loath to show their feelings. This is another difference.

Fifth, there is a difference in the body structure. Generally, the Chinese seem lean and fit, physically. The Indian, often not so, and many Indians clearly overweight and far from fit. It maybe to do with the diet, the exercise regime (or the lack thereof for Indians), the climate. But, there is a difference whatever the reasons. Only now, one sees a fit and strong Indian Prime Minister standing side by side with an apparently equally fit and strong Chinese President and Chinese Premier. And, there is a new interest in India in fitness. But, there is a long way to go.

Sixth, determination and perseverance of the Chinese seem stronger than that of Indians, who are more tolerant, maybe less aspirational and more laid back. Where does it come from? Political systems? Military role and place in society? There is a difference. The next generation of Indians maybe of a different order? Lets see. Meanwhile, the difference is obvious.

Seventh, the obvious which is constantly talked about: Indians are strong on Software services, Chinese are way ahead on Hardware and Manufacturing. And yet, the blue collar workforce of India is also very skilled but, perhaps, the higher one goes in the hierarchy of Industry, the strength of China is visible to all. On the other hand, the competitive edge of Indians in regard to IT, Software and the Services Sector are apparent to all.

There must be other issues, other characteristics, other differences but these 7 will do to start a Dialogue, a conversation, an exchange of views (especially views which are different and, even contrary). Indians and Chinese are different and the communications and connectivity gap of several decades has added to these differences. Impossible to overcome? Not necessarily. But, that’s for another time.

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©2020 by Tarun Das and Ishan Roy.