Image of Photos of Prof Shailaja Fennell, Prof Jayati Ghosh, Prof Huaichuan Rui and Asst Prof Isabella Weber

China and India: development achievements and challenges

The China Forum seminar on Wednesday 3 November 2022 took the form of a roundtable event, with four leading international scholars, Professor Shailaja Fennell, Professor Jayati Ghosh, Professor Huaichuan Rui and Assistant Professor Isabella Weber.

Jayati Ghosh argued that India’s development achievements are mainly reflected in its relatively rapid GDP growth without major financial crises, broadly diversified economy with industrial and software capability, huge potential to use new technology to embark on a new strategy on industrialisation, and above all, being a democratic country. However, she also highlighted some key failures in India’s development, including the absence of significant structural changes, the lack of employment generation and more than 90 per cent of the employment, particularly of women, remaining informal and vulnerable, and poor human development indicators in various categories including health and education. 

Huaichuan Rui firstly analysed China’s development achievements and challenges in each of the three stages, i.e. 1980s - 1990s, 2000 - 2015, and 2016 - the present. She then summarised the overall achievements in poverty alleviation and social welfare improvement, industrialisation, and complete supply chain integration, while highlighting the overall challenges as inequality, environmental sustainability, lack of original innovation, geopolitical isolation and high-tech bottleneck. She concluded with an analysis of the causes for both achievements and challenges.

Shailaja Fennell focused her talk on climate change scenarios and Indian agriculture. She firstly examined the Green Revolution lessons for sustainable agriculture, including the neglect of marginal crops such as millets. She then analysed the importance of millets for sustainable agriculture, and further moving towards sustainable entrepreneurial solutions. Finally, Professor Fennell proposed that intervention and knowledge exchange between researchers, governments and farmer institutions could be the way forward.

Isabella Weber focused her talk on state-market relations in China in the face of multiple overlapping crises, including climate change, the pandemic and geopolitical instability. The poly-crisis is triggering fierce supply-side shocks that are shaking global energy and food markets. She highlighted the role of the state in China as both participant and regulator of markets for essential goods, including basic consumption commodities, industrial inputs and finance. Through these actions the state attempts to stabilise relative prices and the economy as a whole.  Isabella Weber then analysed how the Chinese government continuously monitors and fine-tunes the sector-level institutional infrastructure, which provides the micro foundation for macro stability. She concluded with the lessons that can be learned from the Chinese approach to tackling the multiple overlapping crises.

The Q&A session addressed the following issues: the role of digital development in India’s development; whether India should follow the traditional industrialisation path or follow a service-focused path; the degree to which India’s political system constrains the development of an independent and sustainable food supply chain; India’s efforts in software technology development; exchange of ideas between China and India regarding development of millet production; geopolitical isolation and constraints upon high technology exports to China; vulnerability of global supply chains amidst global instability; and the role of state capacity in India’s development.

Shailaja Fennell is Professor of Regional Transformation and Economic Security, Department of Land Economy, University of Cambridge. She was awarded her degrees of BA, MA, and MPhil in Economics from the University of Delhi, and then went on to read for her MPhil and PhD at the Faculty of Economics and Politics, University of Cambridge. Her doctoral research was on long term agricultural trends in India and China. Her research addresses the relationship between regional transformation and institutional reform processes.  Her work has focussed on rural-urban transitions and sustainability challenges; gendered labour markets and youth employment; and the case for the provision of public goods through development policy. Professor Fennell has led research projects in Asian and African countries for past fifteen years:  on the impact of rural-urban transitions on education and employment, on gendered impacts of food insecurity and inequality, on the challenge of collective action to achieve gender equality, and on investment in education, health, and infrastructure to ensure regional transformation. She has also been a consultant on gender, inequality and national development with international agencies such as the World Bank and Oxfam, as well as with policy think tanks in Asia. She is currently a co-I on the NERC funded Regenerating Landscapes programme (2022-27) that is examining sustainable land use policies in the UK, awarded to the University of Cambridge. She was previously a co-I on the successful GCRF funded Transforming India's Green Revolution by Research and Empowerment for Sustainable food Supplies (TIGR2ESS), led by the University of Cambridge (2017-22). On that programme, she led the flagship project on Impacting the Well-Being of Urban and Rural Communities-through interventions in education, empowerment and entrepreneurship to ensure improved health and nutrition. She also led the academic team that produced the ASEAN Development Outlook on Inclusion and Sustainability launched at the end of 2021. 

Jayati Ghosh taught economics at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi for nearly 35 years, and since January 2021 is Professor of Economics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA. She has authored and/or edited 20 books and more than 200 scholarly articles. Recent books include the forthcoming co-authored book Earth For All: A survival guide for humanity;  The making of a catastrophe: Covid-19 and the Indian economy, Aleph Books 2022; When governments fail: Covid-19 and the economy, Tulika Books and Columbia University Press 2021 (co-edited); and Women workers in the informal economy, Routledge 2021 (edited). Jayati Ghosh has advised governments in India and other countries, including as Chairperson of the Andhra Pradesh Commission on Farmers’ Welfare in 2004, and Member of the National Knowledge Commission of India (2005-09). She is currently a Member of the UN Advisory Board on Economic and Social Affairs, the WHO Council on the Economics of Health for All and the UN Secretary General’s High-Level Advisory Board on Effective Multilateralism, mandated to provide a vision for international cooperation to deal with current and future challenges.

Huaichuan Rui received her Ph.D from Judge Business School, University of Cambridge and is currently Professor of International Business at the School of Business and Management, Royal Holloway, University of London. She has been researching on China’s developmental strategy since her PhD study. Based on case studies of China’s coal industry, she concluded that China faced three parallel challenges of development, transition and globalization, which determined that China’s reform since the 1980s must be handled cautiously, experimentally, innovatively, and in a balanced way. Rui then became a pioneering researcher on Chinese multinational enterprises and their global developmental impact. She has been leading the project of "China’s Outward Investment and Multinational Enterprises" since 2005 and conducting extensive fieldworks including over 1,000 interviews in over 30 countries across the five continents. Since 2015, Professor Rui has been collaborating on an ERC Advanced Grant project, examining the impact of small commodity trade on the development both in China and the countries importing from China. Rui has earned her reputation through exploring and theorising multiple themes, for which she has been invited to many organizations to present her study on China and Africa’s development strategy; trade, investment and development; Belt and Road Initiatives; geopolitical power and China's position in the world, among others

Isabella M. Weber is a political economist working on China, global trade, and the history of economic thought. She is an Assistant Professor of Economics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and the Research Leader for China at the Political Economy Research Institute, as well as an Associate in Research at the Fairbank Center at Harvard University. She is the author of the award-winning book How China Escaped Shock Therapy (2021). Isabella Weber holds a Ph.D. in Economics from the New School for Social Research and a Ph.D. in Development Studies from the University of Cambridge, and was a visiting researcher at Tsinghua University.