Timothy Geithner’s India trip

I had no idea until the NYTimes reported it earlier this week that our Treasury Secretary once lived in India:

Geithner was born in New York City but spent most of his childhood in other countries, including present-day Zimbabwe, Zambia, India and Thailand where he completed high school at the International School Bangkok. [Link]

Here is a picture of Geithner when he was a kid in India. For the love of…why didn’t some local teach him some cricket??

And while in India, Geithner needed some ironing done. Why can’t we buy those big ol’ irons here? My shirts are never pressed as well as they are in India.

Actually, this man is the local ATM machine. Click on the picture for an explanation

This looks like a drugstore. Did he need to pick up some Immodium?:

This drugstore actually offers mobile banking services. One-stop shopping.

Here is the takeaway from the trip as Geithner heads into meetings with India’s rival China:

India and the United States have launched a new economic partnership that offers “huge opportunities” for both countries, U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner said Tuesday during a two-day visit to India aimed at strengthening ties with one of the world’s fastest-growing economies.

Although few details were disclosed, Indian Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee invited U.S. companies to invest in the country’s booming construction industry, which is building airports, railroads and a planned 4,400 miles of highway a year in an effort to make freight traffic more efficient while spreading wealth to India’s rural areas.

“Geithner’s goal in the talks in India on Tuesday will be to give more prominence to U.S.-Indian relations, which have taken a back seat to Washington’s ties with China in recent years,” said Rani D. Mullen, a South Asia expert at the College of William and Mary. [Link]

So basically I can’t point to any tangible results. This was more like “Hey China, look. We are meeting with your rival before meeting with you. You should be more cooperative or we will do more business with India.” But I like the pictures.

59 thoughts on “Timothy Geithner’s India trip

  1. This was more like “Hey China, look. We are meeting with your rival before meeting with you. You should be more cooperative or we will do more business with India.” But I like the pictures.

    I disagree. This was a courtesy call to India – a country that Obama has been not paying much attention to. China will be more important to the U.S. for the immediate future – with issues like currency values, Iran’s nuclear program, and North Korea. Obama probably does not want to ignore India, but he seems unlikely to show the high degree of personal interest that Bush did.

  2. I disagree. This was a courtesy call to India

    Yes this was unstated by me but what I also saw. India, like a very high maintenance girlfriend, likes to be occasionally reminded that they are important. No diamond ring necessary mind you, just dinner and a movie is fine :)

  3. India’s infrastructure is seriously underdeveloped. Encouraging more investment in construction could really act as a catalyst for growth and create quite a few new jobs and companies in the process. The Chinese have done a nice job with their domestic infrascture and have seen quite a few dividends from their massive building efforts. I think this visit by Timothy Geithner could prove fruitful for both sides.

    I think if I were a betting man, I’d throw down some of my chips on the Tata Nano.

  4. India, like a very high maintenance girlfriend, likes to be occasionally reminded that they are important.

    & Dubya was her true love..

  5. …courtesy call to India…

    under staffed treasury secretary has time to do courtesy calls, while handling a major recession, financial reform and incipient trade war. That’s an awful lot of coincidences

  6. The purpose of Tim Geithner’s trip to India was expalined very clearly on a piece on NPR yesterday morning. This lady on NPR was talking to some guy called Sanjay Baru(?) and asking him why USA is not investing in India as much as they are investing in China? Although coupled with very “Apu-ish” accent he did a good job explaining the fundamental difference between India and China. One is a democracy with private business entities, while the other is still semi-dictatorship with evrything owned by Government – sort of.In the long run US firms are better off doing business with India. btw: It all starts with just a dinner and a movie, and occasional flowers. But be carefull, before you know it, the whole thing leads to diamond ring and caviar and soon she will be eating your lunch;-)

  7. India’s infrastructure is seriously underdeveloped. Encouraging more investment in construction could really act as a catalyst for growth and create quite a few new jobs and companies in the process. The Chinese have done a nice job with their domestic infrascture and have seen quite a few dividends from their massive building efforts.

    So true – in Bangalore you live in to different worlds, depending on where you work. If it’s in IT, you travel from your high rise condo overlooking a lake on a broad freeway to a futuristic IT campus, play a round of golf at the Bangalore club and then have dinner at a French Bistro before heading back home. If you happen to be somewhat less gainfully employed, you wake up before dawn to fill your buckets with water before they turn it off for the day, take your scooter over the half finished side roads with the smell of sewage constantly in your nostrils, halfway across town to work and then come home in the evening to watch Indian Idol as long as the current doesn’t cut out.

    I think this visit by Timothy Geithner could prove fruitful for both sides.

    Hank Pulson recently commented in his book on the irony of travelling to India before the subprime crisis hit to lcture Indians on how to regulate their market. Hopefully Geithner went in more of a spirit of partnership – tho if you ask me, this was just a courtesy call.

    I think if I were a betting man, I’d throw down some of my chips on the Tata Nano

    Haven’t heard much about it since the launch. Everyone in India is abuzz about Mahindra (Scorpio – which is a pretty sexy SUV if you ask me)

    the whole thing leads to diamond ring and caviar and soon she will be eating your lunch;-)

    Hahahahah :D

  8. India, like a very high maintenance girlfriend

    Good one. More like a second- or third-string backup with delusions of being The One.

  9. Good one. More like a second- or third-string backup with delusions of being The One.

    India is like Jake Delhomme thinking he might be Neo?

  10. Is this photo of the shirt being ironed taken on this trip? On a 2-day trip, he needed his shirt to be ironed? This must be a photo-op; he does look quite natural in it.

  11. Although coupled with very “Apu-ish” accent he did a good job explaining the fundamental difference between India and China.

    How dare he have an accent. What a jerk.

  12. By the way, you can still find those roadside “Dhobi” in India using 50 lbs. charcoal-fired iron to do “Istree” to your shirts and pants on a moment’s notice. Nowadays when we go back the “Dhobi” comes to our home takes all the clothes (including underwares) and brings them next day morning all nice, neatley folded, starched and pressed. Where in the world can you find this type of luxury?? May be TG can invest US money in providing latest technology for light cast-iron “Istree” and barbecue-grade charcoal….I am just saying!!!

  13. India, the only place where I got my tighty whities ironed. They wouldn’t even listen to you if you asked them to ignore the ironin part for your tighty whities.

  14. C’mon – don’t blame us for Geithner too. Jindal is bad enough…

    Oh, snap!

    In the long run US firms are better off doing business with India.

    Not so sure about that. Corruption keeps the Indian manufacturing sector down to a pitiful imitation of China; yet India offers more in the way of soft skills and some common language ground. I’m gonna scifi nerd-out here and say China is like Ix and India is like Richese. Both have their major drawbacks.

  15. , just dinner and a movie is fine

    that’s what the salahis said!

    I’d throw down some of my chips on the Tata Nano.

    that would be adding fuel to the fire

  16. India falling behind China recently shows us the downside of democracy–it is messy and uncoordinated and can be “beat” by a coordinated dictatorship–but, only in the short-term. In the medium term, China is headed for a political implosion, which will implode their economy as well. India will muddle through, and emerge ahead of China in our lifetimes. China would go crazy if the “Dalai splittists” killed 75 troops. India can shrug and muddle through when Maoists kill 75 troops. The phone is still ringing in Bangalore.

  17. By the way, you can still find those roadside “Dhobi” in India using 50 lbs. charcoal-fired iron to do “Istree” to your shirts and pants on a moment’s notice. Nowadays when we go back the “Dhobi” comes to our home takes all the clothes (including underwares) and brings them next day morning all nice, neatley folded, starched and pressed. Where in the world can you find this type of luxury?? May be TG can invest US money in providing latest technology for light cast-iron “Istree” and barbecue-grade charcoal….I am just saying!!!

    Totally agree! On every visit, the last day before I leave India, I take every older kurta I’ve carried into the country with me, plus every new one the tailor has just made, and have the entire batch washed and pressed before I do the packing. Once back in the US, as the weather warms up, I’m so loathe to break into the beautifully cleaned and press stash because it is such a pain and so time-consuming to do all that handwash and ironing yourself, and they’re never as crisp and perfect.

  18. Good to know that Mr.Treasury Secretary once lived in the land of spices. I can belive the man in picture is actually a dhobi… I mean, he’s outfit is quiet good. Was he informed to dress well ? I remember dhobis in my town, they always looked tired and full of sweat; might be India shining…

  19. yet India offers more in the way of soft skills and some common language ground. I’m gonna scifi nerd-out here and say China is like Ix and India is like Richese.

    ix & richese were closer. india has 81 million internet users. china has 384 million

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_number_of_Internet_users

    you can also find charts that china has now way outpaced india in the production of science graduates.

    perhaps in the long term india can become richese, but it has a major human capital deficit right now. india’s literacy rate is around 60%, and china’s is around 86%.

    http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/edu_lit_tot_pop-education-literacy-total-population

    (the rates vary depending on how you calculate them, but i’m pretty sure this captures the gap right)

    anyway, obviously india has major sectors for growth and investment. it, like china, is a huge poor continent sized country. but when it comes to “india vs. china” there’s no real comparison right now if you do total aggregate sums. the top indian corporations may rival chinese ones, but the indian peasant is poorer and more illiterate than the chinese peasant, and they’re still both peasant nations (though china less and less so).

  20. yeah, judging those toothpics from the baseball pic, he’s indian. we should make a claim. after all, Bam ain’t going on the trading block anytime soon especially after HCR and the recovery. I mean there was a time there when the progressive whites were urging a trade but they could only convince tavis smiley and cornel west. now? fuggetaboutit.

    we probably don’t even have to give up anything. if they insist, toss in engelbert humperdinck or freddie mercury. i’d say sai baba but they’d probably think we stole jimi at some point and are tying to trade him back.

    doesn’t like to pay taxes either. he’ll fit right in.

  21. ix & richese were closer. india has 81 million internet users. china has 384 million

    No doubt on those figures (you really are sprung on those, innit), but Ix was a confederation of planets whereas Richese was never identified as having more than one. And if India’s penchant for imitation is anything to go on, Richese fits the bill wonderfully. Ix, however, may be a serious overestimation of China…they’re not much better at true innovation than India, if at all. Both nations are masters at undercutting and corporate espionage, both valid weapons in the economic arsenal.

  22. India is a “master” of “corporate espionage”? Puhhh-lease–I wish! Indian “intelligence” (for ex., RAW) can’t even take out Hafiz Saeed, the LeT leader responsible for the Mumbai Massacre, who still appears in public in Pakistan. Note the difference with Hezbollah’s leader, who stays underground. That shows you who is a “master” and who is incompetent. (I say this as a frustrated Indian citizen.)

  23. @Shilpa: I forgot who said it, but the old line goes that the trouble with Indians is that all their deviousness and cunning is spent on destroying each other.

  24. just dinner and a movie is fine :)

    Please. You call that high maintenance? It’s not India acting like the high maintenance girlfriend so much as the U.S. acting like the unavailable boyfriend.

    Once back in the US, as the weather warms up, I’m so loathe to break into the beautifully cleaned and press stash because it is such a pain and so time-consuming to do all that handwash and ironing yourself, and they’re never as crisp and perfect.

    There are a few laundry shops out there(US) that will do the washing and ironing for you. And I mean everything!! I’ll never forget finding that my g-strings had been perfectly ironed and folded. They had only ever known wash, wad and wedge.

  25. Ix, however, may be a serious overestimation of China…they’re not much better at true innovation than India, if at all.

    well, you’re analogy really breaks down at that point, since in the dune world is one where the butlerian jihad actually dampens innovation and economic growth due to the ban on thinking machines and biotechnology (the bene tleilax get around the ban by being abominable as you know :-) our world is one where there isn’t enough innovation, and gov’s try and figure out how to juice it so we innovate more. that is, we need innovation to generate economic growth so that the poor can become rich and the rich can sustain their entitlement obligations.

    i agree that china isn’t very innovative. japan has had some problems being innovative despite being modern, and some people have told me it has a lot to do with top-down japanese scientific culture. i.e., you don’t contradict or critique your seniors, which chills bottom-up paradigm shifts. now that japan is old it’s probably missed the boat on ever being innovative because older scientists tend not to produce as much new stuff. from what i know about china’s culture there is some of the same deference to superiors which might dampen innovation. and that’s OK if china and east asia focus on engineering, while the more individualist west focus on basic science. complementation and comparative advantage and all.

    no idea where brownland fits in all of this. i know that pakistani americans supposedly file more patents than pakistanis in pakistan, so institutional issues can cause constraint. i assume india isn’t as bad this way, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if indian americans can leverage their human capital better in the states because of the cultural environment as opposed to india. though i’d be interested in reading some more surveys of the economics in india aimed at a broader audience. recommendations?

  26. No doubt on those figures (you really are sprung on those, innit)/i>

    1) what is “innit” supposed to mean in this context?

    2) i was looking for the whack ratio of indian vs. chinese grants of science phds per year after 2000, but couldn’t find it. it’s about the same ratio now as the internet users and way more important obviously. the long and the short of it is that the median indian is way more illiterate and nutritionally deprived than the median chinese. there is probably not much difference at the 5th percentile for china and india. right now in india i assume economic growth is flowing over the top 10% or so, so you there isn’t a “limits to growth” due to human capital scarcity. but at some point the underinvestment by the exclusive and self-interested indian elites in broad-based human development indices is going to come back to haunt them. india is a snake with a good head and razor sharp fangs produced by IIT and the “forward castes” or whatever you want to call them, but a puny ass body. china is going to take its robust pythonous body politic and just strange india if it’s a one-on-one face off (though that sort of mercantilism strikes me as anachronistic and implausible).

    it’s relevant for sepia mutiny because i’ve seen people talk about “indian values” like education and stuff which seems totally ridiculous when looking at the social indices of india. but then the people who post on sepia mutiny are a particular type of indian, no matter what region or religion, they come from families which by and large prize education and have had the resources to make such long term investments. this isn’t culture-typical, most south asians live on the margins of grinding subsistence. the largest number of abjectly poor people in the world live in south asia, and south asia is the world capital of nutritionally induced mental retardation (cretinism). while the development of china has seen the most massive amelioration of poverty in the history of the world, from what i have read the indian miracle has mostly gone to those who already have, not those who don’t have.

    note: sri lanka and some parts of india, such as kerala and mizoram, do have good human development indices.

  27. Abhi, off-topic, but–

    With the impending retirement on Justice Stevens, isn’t it time to push for Neal Katyal again?

  28. the long and the short of it is that the *median* indian is way more illiterate and nutritionally deprived than the *median* chinese.

    Well the median Athenian was less of a soldier than the median Spartan, but they still held their own in war by playing to their own strengths (Although the Athenians probably would have won handily if not for a handful of egregious strategic blunders and allowing the Spartans to wallop them on the diplomatic front.)

    The larger point is, it doesn’t matter what the median to median comparison is any more than the mean to mean or the top 99th percentile to top 99th percentile. You really want to look at how the society as a whole handles itself. One strength the Chinese could have in that department (if they got past the point of just lip-service) is the ideal of social harmony as being the primary goal of the state rather than the mish-mash of conflicting priorities the Indian state has which run the gamut from redressing real or imagined grievances over the past several thousand years, making sure no specific religion/caste/language/other narrowly defined parochial identity is allowed to prosper above any other specific religion/caste/language/other narrowly defined parochial identity, and “development” which apparently means wallpapering rural villages with currency instead of building schools or clinics.

    it’s relevant for *sepia mutiny* because i’ve seen people talk about “indian values” like education and stuff which seems totally ridiculous when looking at the social indices of india. but then the people who post on sepia mutiny are a particular type of indian, no matter what region or religion

    I don’t know about that. I’ve heard stories about families going through some pretty absurd lengths to make sure at least one of their children gets an education. I’d say the value of education is a pretty strong cultural value (especially for boys), but the price of an education (both monetary and in terms of opportunity cost) is prohibitively high for many. I wouldn’t regard the state’s failures as an accurate metric to judge how much Indians value things. As we know, the Indian state is far far away from being a guardian of Indian values.

  29. Abhi, off-topic, but– With the impending retirement on Justice Stevens, isn’t it time to push for Neal Katyal again?

    I tweeted about this earlier today. Maybe I will do a post later this weekend.

  30. OK, why the hell are Desis so eager to embrace the “system”???

    World Bank, World This, World That…..

    Before you know it – Indians will be just as addicted to anti-depressants as Americans!

  31. Well the median Athenian was less of a soldier than the median Spartan

    this is an irrelevant analogy i think. and anyway, it’s a weird comparison anyway since a much lower proportion of the people who lived within the boundaries of the spartan state (laconia + messinia) were true citizens (helots and free non-citizens could not bear arms). the spartan citizen by definition was a guy who had leisure to be a citizen soldier because he lived off rents. by contrast a larger (though granted minority, as metics and slaves and women were excluded) proportion of the people who lived within the boundaries of the athenian state were eligible for service in the military, and the athenian navy was obviously better than the non-existent (at least the beginning of the wars) spartan one. i think sparta is probably more like india in this case because its elite was easier and more efficiently mobilizeable than the more diffuse athenian polity.

    but anyway i think that looking at the median wealth and human development index of a state is actually valid as a first approximation. i think if we took the utility under the curve of the distribution of wealth/human development index you’d get the same result in this case anyway.

    One strength the Chinese could have in that department (if they got past the point of just lip-service) is the ideal of social harmony as being the primary goal of the state rather than the mish-mash of conflicting priorities the Indian state has which run the gamut from redressing real or imagined grievances over the past several thousand years, making sure no specific religion/caste/language/other narrowly defined parochial identity is allowed to prosper above any other specific religion/caste/language/other narrowly defined parochial identity, and “development” which apparently means wallpapering rural villages with currency instead of building schools or clinics.

    yes. i agree. the creation of the idea of the han people (yes i know the widespread use of the term han for all chinese is actually recent) is in large part a top-down phenomenon over 2,000 years whereby the state minimized differences. additionally, for most of china’s history it hasn’t been ruled by a hereditary elite below the level of the emperor (the tang and latter han being exceptions).

    . I’d say the value of education is a pretty strong cultural value (especially for boys), but the price of an education (both monetary and in terms of opportunity cost) is prohibitively high for many. I wouldn’t regard the state’s failures as an accurate metric to judge how much Indians value things. As we know, the Indian state is far far away from being a guardian of Indian values.

    right. so why the large between state differences? is kerala’s literacy a function of the communists? how come west bengal doesn’t have the same statistics? and the northeastern states of mizoram and nagaland. is it the money that christian missionaries pour in? india does have a lot of variation, so why?

  32. “forward castes”

    One of the most positive aspects of the IT rev is that it has lifted up many people from “backward caste” and even untouchable backgrounds, It’s not just a bunch of upper castes, though they are disproportionately represented in IT because they have the economic and social resources to better leverage their opportunities. You might also be interested to know that there are plenty of upper castes stewing in poverty as well, including many Brahmins.

    “indian values” like education and stuff which seems totally ridiculous when looking at the social indices of india.

    The Indian masses lack access to basic education and healthcare. For those that can afford it, education is a must. India’s middle class is as fanatical about education as any group you will come across. Those that have risen through education typically come from agricultural families that could afford to keep their kids out of the fields.

    By the way, generally if you look at Indian families of means, almost all their kids are college grads. For Indians, their low level of literacy is likely mainly function of access more than anything else. The drive and ability are there, but the opportunity is not yet.

    from what i have read the indian miracle has mostly gone to those who already have, not those who don’t have.

    Well actually if you look at the gini coefficents, China is much higher (and more unequal) than India. The Chinese miracle seems to have created quite a number of jobs in manufacturing, but it’s the well connected and the entrapranuers on the urban and southern coast that are making the $$$. From what I’ve read, there’s an astounding wealth gap between the top and bottom classes of China, which is the source of all sorts of bubbling discontent. China now is at point where even college grads are finding difficulty getting meaningful employment.

  33. One of the most positive aspects of the IT rev is that it has lifted up many people from “backward caste” and even untouchable backgrounds, It’s not just a bunch of upper castes, though they are disproportionately represented in IT because they have the economic and social resources to better leverage their opportunities. You might also be interested to know that there are plenty of upper castes stewing in poverty as well, including many Brahmins.

    sure, i’m speaking in odds ratios here. i note that at least one person on sepia mutiny “outed” themselves as of dalit background in the 6 years i’ve been reading this weblog, though i’m not reading it as much in the last few years so perhaps there’s a change that i’m not aware of. i would be curious as to the exact numbers though, is there a way to find them online? i have a hard time navigating some of the more “obscure” (from my perspective) caste/jati terms.

    By the way, generally if you look at Indian families of means, almost all their kids are college grads. For Indians, their low level of literacy is likely mainly function of access more than anything else. The drive and ability are there, but the opportunity is not yet.

    yes, i thought it was implicitly clear that i was criticizing the allocation of resources and priorities on the part of the indian political class & economic elite (which i presume to be somewhat intersecting).

    Well actually if you look at the gini coefficents, China is much higher (and more unequal) than India. The Chinese miracle seems to have created quite a number of jobs in manufacturing, but it’s the well connected and the entrapranuers on the urban and southern coast that are making the $$$. From what I’ve read, there’s an astounding wealth gap between the top and bottom classes of China, which is the source of all sorts of bubbling discontent. China now is at point where even college grads are finding difficulty getting meaningful employment.

    this is a fair point. i assume that china has something of an investment bubble going on analogous to what we saw in southeast asia before 1998 (krugman’s critique of this growth may apply somewhat to china as well). that being said, i would still assert that the median chinese is in much better shape than the median indian, and from the nutritional data i’ve seen the chinese masses are now less deprived than the indian masses.

    anyway, my overall thrust is that the “china vs. india” comparison is using indian and chinese elites as reference points. this comparison makes some sense. but china has managed to uplift its non-elite segment much more than india. the skewed representation of who is indian in the united states, and to a lesser extent the diaspora as a whole, tends to confound the issues.

  34. Despite claims to the contrary, caste conscious remains pretty strong amongst the South Asian diaspora. If you were from an untouchable or lower caste background, there’d still be that stigma around the whole issue unfortunately. Moreover, another issue is that there’s a bit of a dispute over which jati belongs to which varna. Some jatis that would be widely identified as Shudra/untouchable like to term themselves kshatriya or vaishya. Examples of this can be found among the Nairs of Kerala or the Jatts of Punjab. That’s partly why you don’t see much outing go on here or elsewhere.

    There’s not much info about caste and IAs, but there’s quite a bit on the caste origins of the Indian community in Britain. From what I gather, they’re doing okay for themselves despite the peasant origins of much of the community. My sense is that maybe there are different levels of human capital among the castes, with those historically in clerical and mercantile occupations perhaps having some advantage, but differences in socieconomic status have a lot to do with geography or history also. The untouchables are untouchable largely because society did what it could to marginalize them and drive them to the fringe, but didn’t exclude them to a point where they would need to establish their own more egalitarian, and progressive, social structures. Thus you have the worst of both worlds.

    I think you are correct about the Indian elites having performed abysmally, in comparison to the Chinese, at the task of improving the lot of the common man. While Indian leaders worry about IITs and outsourcing and H-1B visas, Chinese leaders are more focused on opening up markets for their goods and bringing in large scale, labor intensive manufacturing. In the long term, however, the common man matters much more than the elite. I think in a few parts of India, like Kerala and some of the south, they get it, but otherwise the Chinese have a big edge here.

    Businessman, journalist, and author Gurcharan Das speculated that India’s caste system, which disdains manual hands on labor and esteems scholarly work, is at play when Indian leaders set their priorities. I might also add that Indian leaders seem to be overly ideological, in contrast to their more pragmatic up north.

  35. despite claims to the contrary, caste conscious remains pretty strong amongst the South Asian diaspora.

    yes, sepia mutiny has made me very aware of that. also, it is famously observed that the ratio of those noting they have light skin to dark skin is strongly skewed toward the former :-)

    . From what I gather, they’re doing okay for themselves despite the peasant origins of much of the community.

    i tried to dig into this once. hard to find concrete data, but one issue that needs to be addressed is that east african indians, who may be as much as 25% of indians (as opposed to south asians as a whole, which is inclusive of pakistanis, sri lankans and bangladeshis) have a very peculiar socioeconomic profile because of their mercantile origins. this group is wealthier and more well educated than whites. from what i can tell sikhs are at rough parity with whites, though some of the issues are garbled because of regional concentrations (i did digging before the property bubble burst, but it seemed sikhs tended to have homes valued higher, probably because of their local concentrations). i don’t know about the non-east african & non-sikh segment of indians, which i think is harder to ascertain because they’re a diverse group. though as a whole the indian group in the UK census is at rough SES parity with whites. the chinese do somewhat better in SES.

    I think in a few parts of India, like Kerala and some of the south, they get it, but otherwise the Chinese have a big edge here

    and yet kerala is no economic dynamo either.

    Businessman, journalist, and author Gurcharan Das speculated that India’s caste system, which disdains manual hands on labor and esteems scholarly work, is at play when Indian leaders set their priorities.

    well, i don’t know about the whole manual labor thing. this is an explanation i’ve heard for why chinese out-hustle malays too. BUT, the chinese mandarin scholar-bureaucrat had a long tradition of avoiding manual labor or physical exertion as beneath him. that’s why they grew their finger nails out long, it showed that they didn’t work with their hands. so that particular explanation seems after the fact to me.

  36. Yeah, the Gujaratis showed up in South and East Africa to do menial labor, but quickly transitioned into small time trading and shop keeping. From what I’ve read, in South Africa, restrictions were placed on where they could trade, as they were economically displacing white-owned enterprises. In East Africa, they came in much larger numbers and were given broad room to flourish economically and professionally. Eventually racial tensions forced them out of East Africa and into the UK, where the first generation did really well in shopkeeping. Their kids and grandkids are now at the top of the pile economically and academically.

    The Sikhs mainly were of peasant caste origins, though a few came as professionals or mercantile routes via East Africa. Educationally they’re pretty average and economically a bit under average, but they are doing about as well as the white British more or less. They’re not all that professionally oriented or super rich, but most are in decent paying skilled blue collar occupations or small shops/factories. Their high home ownership may be a function of their tendency to live in large extended families, save money, and invest in property, as lots of property = status in agrarian Sikh culture. Plenty are from lowly untouchable backgrounds as well, which is ironic since Sikhs aren’t even supposed to recognize untouchability.

    Both groups are stereotyped as being hardworking, ambitious, frugal, and strong in family. Strange that Indians can do as well as they do when they travel to foreign lands, but India itself is still at the bottom of the HDI heap….. I can only guess that the skills/traits that are useful for building a high-HDI nation are weighted differently when applied to succeeding in an environment of abundance. Perhaps coming from a culture that emphasizes obediance to family and social norms (ie chosen career, marriage, lifestyle) isn’t conducive to the innovation neccessary to spur radical growth, but it is conducive to maximizing one’s SES. In the current atmosphere where there’s a strong demand for skiled IT professionals, I think the Indian culture and family system is playing a rather positive roll in helping the country to pump out lots of educated labor.`

    and yet kerala is no economic dynamo either.

    Kerala’s communists and unions are a big problem. Nearby in Hyderabad and Bangalore, you have a flourishing economic activity and very pro-business politicians, such as Chandrababu Naidu.

    the chinese mandarin scholar-bureaucrat had a long tradition of avoiding manual labor or physical exertion as beneath him. that’s why they grew their finger nails out long, it showed that they didn’t work with their hands. so that particular explanation seems after the fact to me.

    I think Gurcharan’s point wasn’t that Indians can’t compete in manual labor, but that their leaders have a distinct bias for FDI in high-prestige sectors rather than in unskilled manufacturing, and this bias is rooted in Indian culture. They’ve thus invested a lot in IITs and IT infrastructure, but are unenthusiastic about copying China’s growth model of getting peasants into menial factory jobs. The Chinese do esteem the scholar-bueracrat, but they’re practical enough to also realize that it doesn’t hurt to have an enormous manufacturing base. Indian ideology v.s. Chinese pragmatism at work.

    Another “advantage” is that China, being a one-party state with a deferential population, can stomach the excesses of extreme capitalism, as the coastal/southern entrapranuer and bueracrat class profit off the sweat of the peasant masses….. and demolish longstanding urban slums to make room for “progress”….. You do breakneck growth, but lots of inequality and a crony capitalist government. In India, mass scale decentralized democracy, which at points can devolve into chaos, might not be willing to bear that.

  37. From what I’ve read, in South Africa, restrictions were placed on where they could trade, as they were economically displacing white-owned enterprises. In East Africa, they came in much larger numbers and were given broad room to flourish economically and professionally.

    there are 1 million indians in south africa. do you really think there were more in east africa? i know many were expelled, but the there aren’t that many in the UK (assume 25% of the ~ 1 million indians, and the numbers don’t work). as for south african indians, my understanding is that they were more diversified in their origins than the ones in east africa. specifically, lots of tamils arrived too, as well as non-gujarati north indians. there was a gujarati mercantile element, but it was mostly muslim (wealthy muslim guarati indians are prominent in the ANC power elite). so south africa had a community more like mauritius or trinidad.

    Strange that Indians can do as well as they do when they travel to foreign lands, but India itself is still at the bottom of the HDI heap….. I can only guess that the skills/traits that are useful for building a high-HDI nation are weighted differently when applied to succeeding in an environment of abundance.

    well, what about guyana? not a pretty picture. but trinidad and mauritius are doing OK, though not spectacular (there is debate on how much of trinidad’s wealth is based on its petrol from what i can tell).

    , but that their leaders have a distinct bias for FDI in high-prestige sectors rather than in unskilled manufacturing, and this bias is rooted in Indian culture. They’ve thus invested a lot in IITs and IT infrastructure, but are unenthusiastic about copying China’s growth model of getting peasants into menial factory jobs. The Chinese do esteem the scholar-bueracrat, but they’re practical enough to also realize that it doesn’t hurt to have an enormous manufacturing base. Indian ideology v.s. Chinese pragmatism at work.

    yeah, i think you’re pointing to something real, and that’s what i’m trying to get at too. the issue i’m alluding too is that india is really diverse, and a lot of the indian groups view themselves as special and quite insular. i think that might cause issues when it comes to generating empathy across socioeconomic boundaries. as i said above, china doesn’t really have an official titled nobility. yes, there were gentry who tended to produce bureaucrats, but the old chinese saying is “three generations up, three generations down,” so there’s a level of churn which doesn’t produce the sort of “timeless” stratification that you have in india. IOW, the chinese ruling class easily identifies with the han peasant masses because their distinction from them is is only a matter of a generation or two usually. by contrast, when i remember reading discovery of india as a kid it seemed quite clear that nehru believed that the kashmiri pandits were a race apart, more akin to those of europe than south asia from some of the stuff he said in there about his background. from what little i know various chinese groups like hakka or the min dialect clans on the fujian coast have particular stereotypes and attitudes vis-a-vis other groups in china, but they’re not quite of the same valence as caste/regional distinctions in india, and there’s also not uniform in their direction of positive or negativity. i.e., north chinese might perceive south chinese to be a bit racially mongrelized and uglier because they’re darker skinned, but they also credit the southerners for being harder workers and probably more intelligent (there’s a long history of the yangtze delta down to the fujian coast overproducing in candidates for the imperial bureaucracy).

    anyway, china vs. india is kind of apples and oranges. but examining the details of the fruit can be interesting.

  38. A reasonably right-minded totalitarian government, given the tail wind of globalization and the much vaunted demographic dividend, can bring about reforms faster than a true democracy. But the question is – how long can you trust a totalitarian government to remain right-minded? What has history taught us in that regard? That’s the China vs. India comparison in a nutshell.

    This is not to defend India’s failures but to defend freedom in general.

  39. I was just referring to Gujaratis, of which there were many more of in East Africa. If you include Indians of other regions, then more settled in South Africa. The SA Indian community included a Muslim Gujarati mercantile minority and large laborer populations from Tamil Nadu and the bhojpuri belt, which also sent many laborers to the Carribean and other areas (Maruitius, Malaysia, Fiji, etc.). The African-Indians in the UK are almost entirely Gujaratris, with a few Sikhs, from the east. I don’t think SA Indians have immigrated much to Britain.

    I do think you are right that the mix does matter. The Indians displacing white traders in SA were mainly Gujaratis, not the people from the bhojpuri belt or Tamil country. Yet, if you look at the income stats today, the coolie laborers have made a lot of progress in closing the gap and aren’t significantly poorer than the Gujaratis. So starting off with an entrapranuerial culture may have been a big advantage for the Gujaratis, but the other groups were upwardly mobile enough to climb the ladder too to some extent.

    well, what about guyana? not a pretty picture. but trinidad and mauritius are doing OK, though not spectacular (there is debate on how much of trinidad’s wealth is based on its petrol from what i can tell).

    Well, Guyana and those other countries weren’t too wealthy to begin with, but the Indians, considering the circumstances of their new lands, are doing okay. Which is why I speculated that the skills/traits/culture needed for SES maximization might be weighted differently when applied to producing large scale, sustained growth and innovation. The Sikhs that went to Britain and are probably not radically higher in human capital than Guyanese Hindustani (both are mainly from agrarian peasant origins), but they are living in an environment that rewards hard work and frugality a lot more.

    the chinese ruling class easily identifies with the han peasant masses because their distinction from them is is only a matter of a generation or two usually

    I think in northern and central China, the affluent urban nobility tended to produce the successful bueracrats from the imperial tests, but the peasants and workers participated very little. In the south coast, from which most of the scholars came from, scholars came from all classes. One key advantage the south had was the widespread availability of education, which was sponsored by prosperous rice farmers and merchants. The educationally biased culture even filtered down to the Hakka, who were poor farmers and geographically/socially seperated from the society, but imbibed the ethos of the region and embraced education with a passion.

    so there’s a level of churn which doesn’t produce the sort of “timeless” stratification that you have in india.

    I think there’s a tendency among the castes to mythologize themselves. For example, Brahmins and upper castes believe they are genetically distinct from the untouchables and have been so since the beggining of time, when, in actuality, people of all castes look rather similar and probably derive from the same stock. They also tend to emphasize their scholarly origins, when quite a few, such as the Bhumihar of Bihar, have traditionally been agriculturalists or even menial labor. Even among the lower caste groups, there is this same tendency to distort origins and claim aristocratic descent. In this type of hierarchy and status obsessed society, nobody wants to identify with the laboring masses and everybody believes his ancestors were scholars/landowners/noblemen. Hard to empathize with the common man when you won’t even acknowledge that you and him share a common origin.

    nehru believed that the kashmiri pandits were a race apart, more akin to those of europe than south asia from some of the stuff he said in there about his background.

    I think everybody says that. Rajputs are Aryans, Punjabis are Aryans, Jatts are Aryans, Brahmins are Aryans…… It’s like there are no desi people north of the Deccan plateau.

  40. . One key advantage the south had was the widespread availability of education, which was sponsored by prosperous rice farmers and merchants. The educationally biased culture even filtered down to the Hakka, who were poor farmers and geographically/socially seperated from the society, but imbibed the ethos of the region and embraced education with a passion.

    did the farmers sponsor outside of their clans? i know that there were periodic pushes for mass education from various levels of society.

    . For example, Brahmins and upper castes believe they are genetically distinct from the untouchables and have been so since the beggining of time, when, in actuality, people of all castes look rather similar and probably derive from the same stock.

    actually, there is genetic difference that is substantial. though on average an indian is closer to an indian than a non-indian.

    I think everybody says that. Rajputs are Aryans, Punjabis are Aryans, Jatts are Aryans, Brahmins are Aryans…… It’s like there are no desi people north of the Deccan plateau.

    agreed. though i think you have to put in scythians in there :-)

    after reading a bit of indian history, i think that this tendency to attribute origins outside of the subcontinent is due to the islamic period. specifically, what is termed the ‘islamicate’ style civilizations which spanned all elites irrespective of religion. muslims south asians regularly make up outside origins because it’s more prestigious, and have race inferiority to the small minority of white muslims of persian, turkic and in the south arab provenance. as hindu elites mimicked many of the cultural styles of muslim elites during the period of muslim domination i suspect that some of them would have internalized the same tendency to justify their status and power by the fact that they were outside conquerors. and when the british came, they extended the tendency with their models of an aryan invasion.

    just speculative. by this need to find outside origins and associations is not known in china or japan, but is found in parts of africa associated with islam.

  41. A reasonably right-minded totalitarian government, given the tail wind of globalization and the much vaunted demographic dividend, can bring about reforms faster than a true democracy. But the question is – how long can you trust a totalitarian government to remain right-minded? What has history taught us in that regard? That’s the China vs. India comparison in a nutshell. This is not to defend India’s failures but to defend freedom in general.

    I can’t get behind the “totalitarian” vs. “democracy” dichotomy. There are more than two types of governments in the world and the level of “totalitarianism” or the level of “democracy” don’t matter nearly as much as the likelihood of competent leaders being put in power and having the authority to exercise it prudently. You can get a mix of competent leadership, give it the capacity to act, and restrain it from going too far in a variety of ways depending on the society you’re governing. Sometimes it’s going to look more authoritarian and sometimes it will be more grassroots, but you can’t just generalize and say that any authoritarian system is going to deal with the same consequences as every other authoritarian system because authoritarian governments tend to be authoritarian in different ways.

    Sometimes you have a totalitarian government that builds itself around a single charismatic leader. Sometimes it builds itself around a single political party. Sometimes it’s some combination of groups of factions. Depending on which factions are in power and who they draw support from the possibility of mass discontent and civil uprisings is going to vary. India is a democracy but we actually have a lot of civil unrest inside it already. From Naxalites to separatists in the NorthEast to Islamic terrorism and various communal riots around the country India constantly looks like it’s just a few years away from ripping itself apart. I don’t think “democracy” alone is a sufficient explanation for why it hasn’t. On the other side of the coin people keep predicting that there will be some mass movements and civil unrest in China that bring the CPC down. They’ve been predicting it since Tiananmen Square. Yet so far things seem to be going okay within the Han parts of China and have been for about 20 years now.

  42. I’m not really sure about whether farmers sponsored education beyond the village clan level, but it seems that rich merchants in building educational facilities of scale in their home villages and the coastal cities. I think the south coast was affluent enough that all the major clans could afford to educate their children, though some clans, those with lots of $$$ and proxmity to lucrative trading routes, were especially successful at producing successful test takers. A study that looked at the southern Guandong province found, during the 1980s, that the coastal sections and Hakka sections of the province were much more successful at eliminating illiteracy than the interior sections, which had something like around half the literacy of the Hakka and coast. What struck me is that it was those same Hakka/coastal regions that had a long history of excelling at academics and the imperial tests, while the interior was generally undistinguished. Local policy makes a difference here, but I think tradition and culture matter more than we might think.

    Claiming outside origins is probably something you want to do when you want to be on the side of the winners. If India was known as a region of conquerors, I bet Pathans and Turks would be claiming Indian ancestral origin.

  43. Claiming outside origins is probably something you want to do when you want to be on the side of the winners. If India was known as a region of conquerors, I bet Pathans and Turks would be claiming Indian ancestral origin.

    within limits. until recently it was not good to claim manchu ethnicity in china. and chinese have no wish to be of mongol provenance. the period of ‘barbarian rule’ was shameful after all. but many han in north china will admit (or is evident) some muslim, mongolian or manchu ancestry (there certain “muslim” surnames found in the han population, and some han communities who had muslim ancestors do not offer pork on ancestral graves). i think the issue in india was the length of muslim hegemony, which lasted roughly from 1200 to 1700. even hindu states such as vijayanagar emulated many islamic motifs and symbologies.

    i bring up this issue because of the contrast between south and east asians that i’ve noticed. east asians tend tend to assert bizarre autochthonous origins. the falsified multiregionalist idea of human origins is very popular there, and the chinese, japanese and koreans have all claimed ancestry from indigenous asian primate lineages. it’s totally hilarious and plainly wrong, but they really want very deep roots within their geographic regions. i assume some hindu nationalists of the it-all-came-from-india variety are similar, but in general among south asians i’ve seen a tendency to emphasize out-of-india origins. e.g., kashmiri pandits or punjabis who note that they’re been confused for persian, something they’re plainly happy about. south indians who are told by others that they look north indian. bengalis who proudly tell me that people think they look pakistani. what is superior and pride-worthy is pretty obvious, go north and west. an analogue to the common east asian attitude would be to claim adivasi antecedents and assert that one’s lineage was rooted in the subcontinent from the time that humans left africa. not holding my breath….

  44. in light of what was said earlier: It is a message that cannot be discounted, Mr. Gupta said. “Identity politics is strong,” he said. “We hope that voters will choose development over caste. But in Bihar one never knows.”

  45. @Razib #47:

    Tragically, Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal party is a member of the NDA, so I’m told that supporting them makes you a genocidal fascist.

    Also, he hasn’t singlehandedly fixed everything that’s wrong with Bihar in only 5 years, therefore he doesn’t care about lower caste people.

    Or something like that.