China and India are homes to two of the great ancient civilizations and retain distinctive cultures to this day. Especially during the last two decades, both have achieved extraordinary economic growth. As two of the four “BRIC” members (the group of large emerging economies that also includes Brazil and Russia) and with China becoming the world’s third-largest economy and India more recently achieving growth on a scale and pace to rival China’s recent history, China and India have emerged as major actors in the world economy. Their sheer size and sharply increased material resources have made both countries rising and major powers in their often-troubled regions as well as potential adversaries with a modern history of tense relations (including over territorial disputes, Tibet policy and other matters) between themselves.
China and India have pursued significantly—but not entirely—different paths to their recent economic success, with common turns toward economic markets and international economic integration but with contrasting approaches to the roles of the state in the economy, political democracy, the rule of law, and other features of economies, societies and polities. The two states’ scale and economic success have made both “models” of development policy for other developing countries. The global economic crisis that began in 2008 has complicated the picture. It undermined the notion that large developing economies had “delinked” from the economic cycles and trends of the developed world. It also cast doubt on the continued viability of any growth strategy that significantly depends on manufactured exports to developed economies. At the same time, the Chinese and Indian economies fared comparatively well (at least during the early months of the crisis), and Beijing especially saw the crisis as validating an approach to economic development and international economic relations that diverged from recent American orthodoxy.