They both have similar levels of population although one is projected to rival the USA for superpower status while the other still has huge rates of poverty.

Authoritarian countries seem to have higher rates of development like USSR (fastest economic growth in their time), Singapore(from poor country to Richest in the world in a single generation) and China (highest poverty alleviation numbers in history). However, post-Soviet Russia is also Authoritarian but their economy seems to be extractive, and authoritarian states in Africa haven't see any success as well, whereas Botswana which is relatively democratic, is Africa's developmental success story.

So, there isn't a clear pattern in terms of Democratic vs. Authoritarian being favorable for economic growth since there are examples on either side. However, if we look at dichotomies of pro-market vs anti-market economies of the SAME LEVEL of development there is a clear pattern such as: Zimbabwe vs Botswana, Jamaica vs Barbados, Chile vs Cuba and now India vs China. So is China more advanced then India simply because they chose free markets sooner than India did ? China under Deng transitioned to neoliberal free trade whereas India ONLY embraced free markets and ended central planning with reforms in 1991 https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-53675858 and then fully in 2014 https://munkschool.utoronto.ca/imfg/research/doc/?doc_id=333

Although, as Slavoj Zizek notes, the manner in which free markets are brought in is also important. In China it was done in a very controlled way with experiments with Special Economic Zones which were then spread out to the rest of the country. Whereas in Russia it was done to help chronies and their political allies gain monopolies.

  • 4
    I would look into other factors such as level of industrialization and education. For example China already had a higher literacy rate in the 80s and increased it much faster than India. I suspect that cultural attitudes also play a role, in particular with the caste system in India (conservative ideology) vs. the communist ideology in China (more progress oriented).
    – Erwan
    Commented May 4, 2022 at 17:27
  • 4
    There's very unlikely to be a single factor that explains it all (or most of it). The history of the two countries is very different, and they have many other differences in geography, natural resources, etc.
    – Stuart F
    Commented May 4, 2022 at 23:56
  • I'm not sure I understand why you use "simply"
    – CGCampbell
    Commented May 5, 2022 at 15:56
  • I would believe that being an authoritarian regime--while also respecting scientific/economic principles is the key to an economic boom. Both Taiwan (during Chiang's time), and South Korea (under Park Chung-hee), and the other examples you mentioned are all doing such a thing.
    – Faito Dayo
    Commented Jul 4, 2022 at 2:41

3 Answers 3


One of the issues with authoritarian regimes is they tend to be kleptocracies where those in power benefit, but not the majority of the population.

One significant factor that holds India back is it's caste system and its reluctance to either reform it or remove it. India also needs to further liberalize it Foreign Direct Investment rules. Also, there are aspects of India employee dismissal laws that make it unattractive to many potential foreign investors.

Also, markets in China are not as free as they are in many western countries. They are freer than they once were, there are still restrictions regarding industry sectors available to foreigners and restrictions about business partnering with Chinese business entities.

  • China is the prime example of a country where those in power certainly benefit a lot but the majority of the population does as well (in an economic sense).
    – quarague
    Commented May 7, 2022 at 6:39
  • Remember US allies like South Korea and Taiwan are dictatorships when they have high economic development. only low-education strongmans are kleptocratic, technocratic strongmans would cause economic development simply because they are learned
    – Faito Dayo
    Commented Jul 4, 2022 at 2:43

You are taking things out of contexts and picking up some conditions that might determine the situation and ignoring the other ones.

You compare Zimbabwe and Botswana ignoring that the second has a much smaller population. It is easier to distribute the tiny share of the mining wealth that the mining companies leave to the local population in the second case.

You compare Chile vs Cuba ignoring that they are thousands of kilometres apart and they are in a different environment. Maybe an average of the conditions in Haiti and the Dominican Republic would have made a better comparison even though they still poorly fit due to the difference in the history of those countries.

In the case of India vs China you ignore that in the 19th century the economy and the education system in China was more advanced than in India, then came:

  • The invasions by the Western powers
  • The war with Japan
  • The civil war
  • After a brief period of peace an internal power struggle until Deng Xiaoping came to power

So the economic growth in China rather than an advancement can be considered a partial bounce back after a long period of war. Even India is bouncing back after a long period of war and colonisation, but the struggles that held it back started much earlier with the wars between the Mughal empire and the other Indian states followed by the British conquest. Furthermore the open market to the industrially made British textiles in the 19th century devastated the Indian local economy more than a war, the widespread poverty also wiped out the resources to educate people except for the higher castes.

Free market has very little to do with all of this.

Authoritarian countries seem to have higher rates of development like USSR

Every time a county transitions from an agricultural based economy to an industrial economy there is a period of strong growth. That period arrived in the Soviet/Russian empire much later than in other western countries and if you make a comparison with a narrow point of view, taking only that period into account, you get the wrong picture.

  • Une question mon ami. But Russia didn't go from barren wasteland pure agriculture to Industrial in the decades that it registered the highest growth rate in the world though ? Factories came under Tsar Nicholas, they already had industries, which is what fueled the revolution when the workers' unions (aka Soviets) formed their own political assemblies
    – Ash Rivers
    Commented May 5, 2022 at 14:14
  • I think this a very distorted view of Russian history. Before the civil war, Russia was still one of the most powerful empires in the world, as industrialised as the rest of the West (yes, the rest of them; Russia was a western country by any definition). In fact, until Europeans carved up China, Russia was uncontested in Asian until they lost against Japan, on the account that they had western technology (and Japan was the only asian country that embraced western technology in the 19th century).
    – uberhaxed
    Commented May 5, 2022 at 19:08
  • 1
    The poorly educated comment both of you are making means that you are not worth a lot of time to look for online resources on the issue. Look by yourselves what was the share of the Russian population working in the factories and those working in agriculture in 1917.
    – FluidCode
    Commented May 5, 2022 at 20:25
  • 1
    @AshRivers if, in a country with a population of more than 100 millions people, that's for you is 'roughly equal' it means that you are trolling. Was also the question so much based on wrong assumption a trolling joke?
    – FluidCode
    Commented May 6, 2022 at 10:51
  • 1
    As @FluidCode says, the nonsense that Ash Rivers and uberhaxed are spreading should not be given the time of day. It is a fact that until Stalinism, Russia was by and large a feudal agricultural nation; this is one of the main reasons why it was so soundly beaten by Japan and why its losses in WWI were so high.
    – Ian Kemp
    Commented May 6, 2022 at 17:33

The system that we call "democracy" is a Western idea. More precisely it is called the "liberal democracy" or "Western form of democracy". This idea originated in ancient Greece and matured in ancient Rome.

A major issue with all those developing countries that adopt the Western model is what Nobel laureate Karl Gunnar Myrdal termed the “soft state”. A “soft state” is weak in its powers of execution, as governments of these countries are forever hijacked by various vested interests, and by politicians’ perpetual bickering and infighting. They can hardly reach a consensus on building a bridge or a highway, not to mention implementing family planning policies or surpassing the developed countries. As a result, their modernization stagnates, and there is no chance whatsoever for them to catch up with the developed world, not to mention surpass it. [1 {Page-93}]

The Western form of democracy is only successful if a state/country has already adopted Western values in its society and culture. The countries you mentioned have historically been maintaining their own values in their cultures and societies. Therefore, western democracy has not been successful and would never be successful there.

This is what Zhang Weiwei said:

A non-Western country adopting the western form of democracy would end up in one of the two scenarios: a. From euphoria to despair b. From euphoria to anarchy


  1. Zhang Weiwei (2012), The China Wave: Rise of a Civilizational State, World Century Publishing Corporation.
  2. Is democracy wrong for China? | Al Jazeera Head to Head

SAME LEVEL of development there is a clear pattern such as Zimbabwe vs Botswana, Jamaica vs Barbados, Chile vs Cuba, and now India vs China.

When you see a non-Western country developed; that means they were either under a monarchy or an authoritarian regime.

Can you say more specifically what you or Professor Weiwei mean by 'Western values'?

"Values of Western culture have, throughout history, been derived from political thought, widespread employment of rational argument favoring freethought, assimilation of human rights, and the need for equality, and democracy."

Which values specifically would be required for Western democracy to succeed elsewhere?

  1. Strong capitalism
  2. Complete separation of church and state
  3. Truly independent state institutions
  4. Low corruption
  5. Strong rule of law
  6. High civic sense
  7. High work-ethics
  • 2
    By the way, I noticed you wrote the same answer to a different question some time ago. If you think this question is a duplicate, feel free to vote to close rather than reposting the answer. If the question are similar but slightly different, please try to adapt your answer to address the points in this question directly.
    – JJJ
    Commented May 5, 2022 at 18:40
  • 1
    I'm pretty sure that Western democracy has been successful in India?
    – F1Krazy
    Commented May 5, 2022 at 18:57
  • 1
    I agree with the conclusion but have problems following the reasoning. I doubt monarchy has much to do with the outcome as almost every western European country had a monarch in the 19th century. The Greeks are a bit difficult to explain considering the composition but you can clearly look at Roman history and see that they went from monarchy to republic to monarchy. The monarchy after the republic (i.e. the Roman Empire) was the most stable period of Roman history until the Empire split in two, hundreds of years later (into two extremely unstable halves).
    – uberhaxed
    Commented May 5, 2022 at 19:18
  • 1
    @uberhaxed, I agree with the conclusion but have problems following the reasoning. --- Zhang Weiwei (2012), The China Wave: Rise of a Civilizational State, World Century Publishing Corporation.
    – user366312
    Commented May 6, 2022 at 7:13
  • 1
    @user366312 appeal to authority is a logical fallacy...
    – uberhaxed
    Commented May 6, 2022 at 17:25

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .