Nowadays, China and India are considered to be rapidly developing countries. At the same time, both countries are countries with the population reaching 1.5 billion people in China and about 1 billion in India. In the modern world, both countries possess enormous economic potential. However, at the same time, they are still considered to be developing countries, in which backwardness becomes evident if compared to developed countries, especially in per capita terms.
Nonetheless, Chinese and Indian economies continuously progress, and nowadays, there are many more optimists who believe in their future perspectives as the world’s leading economies. As a result, it is possible to characterize the Chinese and Indian economy’s progress as sustainable development, a term mainly prevalent in developed countries. At the same time, it is also essential to trace the effect such development produces on the environment, which is based on the economy and health of any nation.
Economic development and the environment in China
Let us speak about the current situation in the Chinese economy and the environment. It should be pointed out that the country’s present environmental problems are those typically encountered by nations transitioning from early-industrial to late-industrial stages of development. It is worth to mention that, as a less-developed nation, China’s obsolescent machinery, dated production techniques, and top-heavy, centralized industrial structures are highly pollution-intensive. Meanwhile, China’s fantastic economic growth has been accompanied by newer forms of pollution, particularly those associated with automobiles, urban congestion, waste disposal, and sanitation. Today, China is experiencing the worst of both the developed and underdeveloped worlds (Beckerman 1996, p.31).
However, gradually the situation gets started to be improved. For instance, according to the World Resource Institute (1998) data, the last two decades of robust economic growth led to the following results:
- The occurrence of infectious diseases is only slightly higher in China than in the advanced industrialized Western countries;
- Life expectancy in China now stands at 69 years, far higher than any other economy of similar size and wealth;
- The infant mortality rate has declined from 52 per 1000 births in 1975-1980 to 38 per 1000 today;
- Although China has added 200 million people since 1980, less land is required to feed China’s population today than was needed a couple of decades ago (cereal yields alone have increased 17% per hectare over the past ten years);
- Average daily per capita calorie and protein consumption increased 13% between the periods 1982-1984 and 1992-1994;
- Finally, only 17% of those under five years of age experience malnutrition, a far better situation than in most other countries of comparable wealth.
Naturally, such data indicate that regardless of criticism concerning China’s economic development, the results are slightly real, and the Chinese economy demonstrates a stable tendency to grow. The general situation in the country gradually improves, i.e., the national health and environment conditions improved.
As a result, China is, to a certain extent, a unique country, is characterized by economic progress, which produces quite a controversial effect on the economy at large and the environment in particular. It is highly probable that the country’s environmental situation would deteriorate dramatically if a sustained development of China was slowed down or stopped at all. But at the same time, it is necessary to remember that continued progress is traditionally associated with specific boundaries and limits around economic growth, preventing overexploitation of natural resources.
Furthermore, the central planning, which is the essential element of the Chinese economy controlled by the government, even though it aims at the country’s sustainable development, eventually leads to the number of environmental problems of economic character. The fact is that such central planning makes environmental protection more expansive and, consequently, China will have to spend more and more on it in the future with fewer benefits.
Finally, many specialists underline that sustainable development of China and other countries would only do violence to the welfare of future generations.
Economic development and the environment in India
As for Indian sustained economic growth, the Green Revolution has contributed is its basis. At the same time, the Green Revolution opponents underlined that its consequences are ruinous and very harmful to the environment. The latter is particularly crucial because the conservative attitude to nature is a traditional feature of Indian culture.
Unlike China, the Green Revolution aimed to increase the effectiveness of Indian agriculture through the extensive use of new technological achievements, including products of the chemical industry, some of which were dangerous for the environment. It means that the country’s industrialization is the accompanying factor of agricultural growth since it stimulates the development of chemical, machine building, and other related industries.
On the other hand, it should be said that “even before the Green Revolution dramatically increased the demand for and use of synthetic fertilizers” (DeGregori 2002, p.356), while the economic progress, as many specialists believe (), deteriorated the situation dramatically. Thus, India’s case turns to be similar to that in China, where economic development is also a source of environmental problems.
Nonetheless, in the Indian case, it is possible to argue about the Green Revolution’s adverse environmental effects. For instance, DeGregori underlines that for Green Revolution grains, “the primary output is a larger percentage of the plant and therefore requires less nutrient unit per unit of output” (2002, p.349). Consequently, these gains in agricultural efficiency and yields per hectare, particularly for the Green Revolution grains, have accommodated a doubling of the country’s population. A similar trend may be observed in the whole world, where it led to a 30% increase in per capita food consumption, with only a slight increase in land under cultivation, about 4% for grains (DeGregori 2002).
Naturally, it possible to hope that potential harmful effects of the Green Revolution will be minimized. Anyway, similarly to Chinese economic progress, the Green Revolution is the synonym of economic development and accompanied industrialization, which has provided India with the basis for further economic growth and industrial development. The growth of productivity and improvement of Indian people’s nutrition is not the only reason for industrialization. It is also stimulated by the rapid growth of the population, which has practically doubled since the Green Revolution. In this respect, it is possible to compare India and China. In such a way, both countries face a dilemma of the necessity of further economic development, which may be accompanied by deterioration of environmental problems and national health. On the other hand, the growth of the population stimulates further economic progress.
Simultaneously, it is necessary to underline that the Indian economy is different from the Chinese planned economy; in stark contrast, the former tend to use open market principles.
Thus, in the end, it is possible to conclude that economic development in China and India seems to be inevitable. On the one hand, it is essential for the further development of the local population’s countries and prosperity. On the other hand, it can be accompanied by numerous environmental problems and deterioration of national health.
Both countries have chosen the way of further economic progress, which, as they hope, could prevent them from environmental and humanitarian catastrophe. Simultaneously, the methods of Chinese and Indian development are, to a significant extent different, since the former is based on planning the economy, while the old on the open market economy.