Geopolitics

China And India: The Tortoise And Hare And The Real Weight Of Demographics

The growth race is on
The growth race is on
Betty Ng*

In Aesop’s Fables, the story about the race between the hare and the tortoise tells people that the rabbit’s complacency and the turtle’s perseverance resulted in an unexpected ending to a seemingly predictable contest. In the 21st century, will the economic race between China and India also offer similar twists and turns, notably because of the age distribution in these two countries?

Both nations are highly regarded BRICS members of the fast-developing world, but in the past decade China’s economic growth and per capita gross domestic product (GDP) have far exceeded India's. Since 2001 China has risen from being the world’s sixth economy to the second, whereas India has advanced from 12th to 10th. However some people hold the view that due to China’s demographic distribution the advantage may turn in India’s favor in the next few decades. How reliable is this theory?

Currently, the populations in China and India are respectively 1.34 billion and 1.2 billion. But the two countries do have a different “starting point.” The biggest age bracket in China is 40-59 years old, in India it's 0-14. Within a few decades, China’s demographic pyramid will turn upside down, and leave young people in the minority. Meanwhile, India will continue to enjoy a young and vibrant population providing a massive labor pool to sustain its economic growth. These are the central factors that convince some experts that the economic growth gap between the two countries will begin to narrow and may soon even make it possible for India to overtake China.

Though there is a certain logic in these figures, the factors that determine economic growth are nevertheless complex; and the importance of the age distribution of a population should not be exaggerated. If a country’s economic pace relies mainly on age distribution then Africa and the Middle East possess even more advantages.

Japan is most often taken as an example in explaining the effect of an aging population on a dwindling economy. The truth is that the aging population has only exacerbated the economic slowdown, not caused it. Obviously, not all the countries with young populations are on the same economic level. Not all countries with young populations belong to the emerging market.

Although India has a much younger population in comparison with China, its education level is lower. India’s literacy rate is 61% for those older than 15, whereas it’s 92% in China. Undoubtedly, this stems partly from the gender gap in education. In China the comparative literacy rate between men and women is 96% to 88.5%, while it is 73.4% to 47.8% in India.

Of course, education is a necessary but not sufficient condition in promoting productivity. According to data from Global Demographics, China’s per capita GDP is lower than that of many other countries with the same literacy rate. This implies that both China and India obviously have plenty of room for improvement.

China's narrow gender gap

Though education itself does not guarantee growth in productivity, it remains nevertheless very important because it affects “employability.” The better one is educated, the most likely one is to find a job. Therefore the educational discrepancy between men and women in India will affect the participation of Indian women in the labor force.

Chinese working age women have a 71% employment rate while the figure is a mere 39% in India (83% to 75% when it comes to men). This means that a younger population in India does not necessarily imply a bigger labor force for the country. This in turn will also affect India’s growth in consumption. According to a forecast from BCG, an international consulting firm, Chinese women’s economic contribution will grow from $1.3 trillion in 2010 to $4 trillion in 2020, whereas in India it will grow to $0.9 trillion in the same period. In contrast, China has a much higher demand for luxury goods.

India will progress in its universal education. Global Demographics estimates that the average literacy rate will grow from the current 65% to 81% in 2032 in India, though that is still lower than China’s current average of 92%. The literacy rate will give respectively to China and India a 79% and 75% male labor participation rate, and a 68% and 40% rate for women. This shows clearly that even if India progresses in its universal education, its gender gap will still lag behind that of China.

As to the possibility of employment, currently China has Asia’s smallest gender gap in the labor force participation rate (12%). Meanwhile the 36% gender gap in India's workforce is nevertheless smaller than the average rate across South Asia (57%). Even though India has had both a female prime minister and president, women’s upward mobility remains limited to the rich and elite classes -- whereas in China there are many more career women with middle and upper management positions.

All these arguments in effect do not negate the importance of age distribution of a population. It just shows that the economic competition between China and India is a complicated process. Both countries have their own unique advantages and both rely on complex elements for economic growth. Economic growth alone cannot determine the rate of return on investment, so any prediction of productivity or GDP shouldn’t be based solely on the age distribution of the population either.

The economic competition between China and India is not a simple race between the hare and the tortoise. The likely return on investments in these two countries requires ever more complex analysis.

*Betty Ng, columnist at Caixin media, is also a contributing writer for the Economist Intelligence Unit.

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food / travel

The True Horrors Behind 7 Haunted Locations Around The World

With Halloween arriving, we have dug up the would-be ghosts of documented evil and bloodshed from the past.

Inside Poveglia Island's abandoned asylum

Laure Gautherin and Carl-Johan Karlsson

When Hallows Eve was first introduced as a Celtic festival some 2,000 years ago, bonfires and costumes were seen as a legitimate way to ward off ghosts and evil spirits. Today of course, with science and logic being real ghostbusters, spine-chilling tales of haunted forests, abandoned asylums and deserted graveyards have rather become a way to add some mystery and suspense to our lives.

And yet there are still spooky places around the world that have something more than legend attached to them. From Spain to Uzbekistan and Australia, these locations prove that haunting lore is sometimes rooted in very real, and often terrible events.

Shahr-e Gholghola, City of Screams - Afghanistan

photo of  ruins of Shahr-e Gholghola,

The ruins of Shahr-e Gholghola, the City of Screams, in Afghanistan

Dai He/Xinhua via ZUMA Wire


According to locals, ghosts from this ancient royal citadel located in the Valley of Bamyan, 150 miles northwest of Kabul, have been screaming for 800 years. You can hear them from miles away, at twilight, when they relive their massacre.

In the spring 1221, the fortress built by Buddhist Ghorids in the 6th century became the theater of the final battle between Jalal ad-Din Mingburnu, last ruler of the Khwarezmian Empire, and the Mongol Horde led by Genghis Khan. It is said that Khan's beloved grandson, Mutakhan, had been killed on his mission to sack Bamyan. To avenge him, the Mongol leader went himself and ordered to kill every living creature in the city, children included.

The ruins today bear the name of Shahr-e Gholghola, meaning City of Screams or City of Sorrows. The archeological site, rich in Afghan history, is open to the public and though its remaining walls stay quiet during the day, locals say that the night brings the echoes of fear and agony. Others claim the place comes back to life eight centuries ago, and one can hear the bustle of the city and people calling each other.

Gettysburg, Civil War battlefield - U.S.

photo of rocks and trees in Gettysburg

View of the battlefields from Little Round Top, Gettysburg, PA, USA

Unsplash/@nemo23


Even ghosts non-believers agree there is something eerie about Gettysbury. The city in the state of Pennsylvania is now one of the most popular destinations in the U.S. for spirits and paranormal activities sight-seeing; and many visitors report they witness exactly what they came for: sounds of drums and gunshots, spooky encounters and camera malfunctions in one specific spot… just to name a few!

The Battle of Gettysburg, for which President Abraham Lincoln wrote his best known public address, is considered a turning point in the Civil War that led to the Union's victory. It lasted three days, from July 1st to July 3rd, 1863, but it accounts for the worst casualties of the entire conflict, with 23,000 on the Union side (3,100 men killed) and 28,000 for the Confederates (including 3,900 deaths). Thousands of soldiers were buried on the battlefield in mass graves - without proper rites, legend says - before being relocated to the National Military Park Cemetery for the Unionists.

Since then, legend has it, their restless souls wander, unaware the war has ended. You can find them everywhere, on the battlefield or in the town's preserved Inns and hotels turned into field hospitals back then.

Belchite, Civil War massacre - Spain

photo of sunset of old Belchite

Old Belchite, Spain

Belchite Town Council


Shy lost souls wandering and briefly appearing in front of visitors, unexplainable forces attracting some to specific places of the town, recorded noises of planes, gunshots and bombs, like forever echoes of a drama which left an open wound in Spanish history…

That wound, still unhealed, is the Spanish Civil War; and at its height in 1937, Belchite village, located in the Zaragoza Province in the northeast of Spain, represented a strategic objective of the Republican forces to take over the nearby capital city of Zaragoza.

Instead of being a simple step in their operation, it became the field of an intense battle opposing the loyalist army and that of General Francisco Franco's. Between August 24 and September 6, more than 5,000 people were killed, including half of Belchite's population. The town was left in rubble. As a way to illustrate the Republicans' violence, Franco decided to leave the old town in ruins and build a new Belchite nearby. All the survivors were relocated there, but they had to wait 15 years for it to be complete.

If nothing particular happens in new Belchite, home to around 1,500 residents, the remains of old Belchite offer their share of chilling ghost stories. Some visitors say they felt a presence, someone watching them, sudden change of temperatures and strange sounds. The ruins of the old village have been used as a film set for Terry Gilliam's The Adventures of Baron Munchausen - with the crew reporting the apparition of two women dressed in period costumes - and Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth. And in October 1986, members of the television program "Cuarta Dimensión" (the 4th dimension) spent a night in Belchite and came back with some spooky recordings of war sounds.

Gur Emir, a conquerer’s mausoleum - Uzbekistan

photo of Gur Emir (Tomb of Timur) i

Gur Emir (Tomb of Timur) in Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Chris Bradley/Design Pics via ZUMA Wire


The news echoed through the streets and bazaars of Samarkand: "The Russian expedition will open the tomb of Tamerlane the Great. It will be our curse!" It was June 1941, and a small team of Soviet researchers began excavations in the Gur-Emir mausoleum in southeastern Uzbekistan.

The aim was to prove that the remains in the tomb did in fact belong to Tamerlane — the infamous 14th-century conqueror and first ruler of the Timurid dynasty who some historians say massacred 1% of the world's population in 1360.

Still, on June 20, despite protests from local residents and Muslim clergy, Tamerlame's tomb was cracked open — marked with the inscription: "When I Rise From the Dead, The World Shall Tremble."

Only two days later, Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union, with the people of Samarkand linking it to the disturbing of Tamerlane's peace. Amid local protests, the excavation was immediately wrapped up and the remains of the Turkish/Mongol conqueror were sent to Moscow. The turning point in the war came with the victory in the Battle of Stalingrad — only a month after a superstitious Stalin ordered the return of Tamerlane's remains to Samarkand where the former emperor was re-buried with full honors.

Gamla Stan, a royal massacre - Sweden

a photo of The red house of Gamla Stan, Stockholm, Sweden

The red house of Gamla Stan, Stockholm, Sweden

Unsplash/@hkblind


After Danish King Kristian II successfully invaded Sweden and was anointed King in November 1520, the new ruler called Swedish leaders to join for festivities at the royal palace in Stockholm. At dusk, after three days of wine, beer and spectacles, Danish soldiers carrying lanterns and torches entered the great hall and imprisoned the gathered nobles who were considered potential opponents of the Danish king. In the days that followed, 92 people were swiftly sentenced to death, and either hanged or beheaded on Stortorget, the main square in Gamla Stan (Old Town).

Until this day, the Stockholm Bloodbath is considered one of the most brutal events in Scandinavian history, and some people have reported visions of blood flowing across the cobblestoned square in early November. A little over a century later, a red house on the square was rebuilt as a monument for the executed — fitted with 92 white stones for each slain man. Legend has it that should one of the stones be removed, the ghost of the represented will rise from the dead and haunt the streets of Stockholm for all eternity.

Port Arthur, gruesome prison - Australia

a photo of ort Arthur Prison Settlement, Tasmania, Australia

Port Arthur Prison Settlement, Tasmania, Australia

Flickr/Eli Duke


During its 47-year history as a penal settlement, Port Arthur in southern Tasmania earned a reputation as one of the most notorious prisons in the British Empire. The institution — known for a brutal slavery system and punishment of the most hardened criminals sent from the motherland— claimed the lives of more than 1,000 inmates until its closure in 1877.

Since then, documented stories have spanned the paranormal gamut: poltergeist prisoners terrorizing visitors, weeping children roaming the port and tourists running into a weeping 'lady in blue' (apparently the spirit of a woman who died in childbirth). The museum even has an 'incidence form' ready for anyone wanting to report an otherworldly event.

Poveglia Island, plague victims - Italy

a photo of Poveglia Island, Italy

Poveglia Island, Italy

Mirco Toniolo/ROPI via ZUMA Press


Located off the coast of Venice and Lido, Poveglia sadly reunites all the classical elements of a horror movie: plagues, mass burial ground and mental institute (from the 1920's).

During the bubonic plague and other subsequent pandemics, the island served as a quarantine station for the sick and anyone showing any signs of what could be Black Death contamination. Some 160,000 victims are thought to have died there and the seven acres of land became a mass burial ground so full that it is said that human ash makes up more than 50% of Poveglia's soil.

In 1922 a retirement home for the elderly — used as a clandestine mental institution— opened on the island and with it a fair amount of rumors involving torture of patients. The hospital and consequently the whole island was closed in 1968, leaving all the dead trapped off-land.

Poveglia's terrifying past earned it the nickname of 'Island of Ghosts'. Despite being strictly off-limits to visitors, the site has been attracting paranormal activity hunters looking for the apparition of lost and angry souls. The island would be so evil that some locals say that when an evil person dies, he wakes up in Poveglia, another kind of hell.

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