The Elephant, dragon and eagle

The relationship between China and India is clearly one-sided: India is obsessed with a China which is approaching lift-off toward becoming on the verge of a developed nation within a generation (certain urban areas are already basically developed, albeit not particularly wealthy in comparison to Hong Kong or Singapore).

Often when I see interviews with regular Chinese about their opinions of the other country the fixation is upon the manifest Third World nature of India, which seems to be changing much more slowly than their own nation. For me GDP is less important that vital statistics like child mortality or life expectancy. And it is in these sorts of statistics where you see the gap opening up between the two nations. India is developing…. but China is leading, and converging faster with developed nations.

It is in this context that this piece in The New York Times jumped out at me, Amazon, in Hunt for Lower Prices, Recruits Indian Merchants:

While has sellers hailing from many countries, Mr. Cheris said that India and China are the two most important places for Amazon to recruit new merchants since both nations are sources of cheap manufactured goods.

Unlike China, where local companies dominate e-commerce, India is also a huge domestic market for Amazon. Although most of India’s commerce is conducted offline, Indians are coming onto the internet at a rapid clip through their smartphones. Amazon’s chief executive, Jeff Bezos, views India and its 1.3 billion residents as vital to his company’s future, and he has vowed to spend at least $5 billion building up his India operations.

a, I was aware that Amazon really hadn’t gotten any traction in the Chinese market. I did not know that Amazon was so competitive in India, though Flipkart is still dominant there.

The story outlined seems to be part of a bigger trend whereby India is on a very different path from China in its relationship to the rest of the world. China’s economy is big enough and insular enough that it sees the world as either an export market or a source of commodities. It is quickly taking back its place of old as a lumbering hegemon. India, in contrast, seems to be developing a more integrative relationship with large economies such as the United States, despite its command and regulatory economy legacy.

Of course, the India-USA relationship is nothing like “Chimerica” in terms of magnitude, but the Sino-American relationship strikes me as very transactional. Despite the recent tendency of Indian society to espouse a stronger Hindu nationalist line, which is at odds with the West, it seems that there is more cultural exchange between elite Indians and Western societies in the deep sense of values, than has occurred with the Chinese and the West. And, yoga and aspects of spirituality notwithstanding, most of the cultural exchange seems to be toward cosmopolitan elites Indians assimilating to global values which draw from the mode of the West.

Ultimately all of this seems to have geopolitical implications. I’m assuming smarter people than me are keeping track of these trends….

58 thoughts on “The Elephant, dragon and eagle

  1. A note about diaspora populations.

    One of the most well established facts in social science is the fit immigrant hypothesis, which argues that the mere fact that someone voluntarily immigrates from one country to another seeking a better life is a powerful predictor of a lot of hard to measure qualities in a person that are highly predictive of socio-economic success relative to the people who stayed behind.

    The peasants who immigrated to the U.S. from South China, Japan, Ireland and Scandinavia to escape famine and from Mexico to escape economic malaise there were by every measure from physical health to personality traits to social skills to IQ more socioeconomically fit than their peers from the same social class and often even compared to siblings in the same families who didn’t make the same huge gamble that they did. This matters not just at the level of the individual, but also at the level of the immigrant communities the develop upon arrival made up of a self-selected group of exceptionally fit people given their backgrounds. People who are physically frail, psychologically fragile or lazy, socially inept, or dumb don’t roll the dice on making a life changing permanent trip to a new land in search of more opportunity and the exclusion of such people gives rise to a very much more fit community of people at the destination.

    Immigrants (for example from South Asia and East Asia and Russia) to Southeast Asia, South Africa, Latin America and Europe are no different in this respect.

    Naive assumptions that immigrant populations are comparable in IQ or otherwise to the average people in their country of origin, even if taken to a fine grained level that looks at smaller geographic units within their country of origin or ethnicity and social class within their country of origin, are profoundly flawed as a result.

    The fit immigrant hypothesis provides a powerful baseline that gets further amplified in cases like the U.S. where most post-1960s immigration strongly preferred college educated people and in particular STEM professionals for prospective immigrants from places other than the Philippines and Latin America where existing colonial and immigrant populations allowed for more family based immigration.

    It is little wonder that contests that select at least in part for excellence in STEM professions (half of National Merit Scholarships is math PSAT and also things like the Intel Science contest) in the U.S. are disproportionately young adults from South Asia and East Asia, when a huge share of the South Asians and East Asians with teenaged kids today in the U.S. are children of parents who were both STEM professionals (both medicine and tech) who were recruited as the cream of the crop from their homelands and who were also fit immigrants, and a large share of those parents who weren’t STEM professionals were at least recent fit immigrants. The proportion of children with at least partial South Asian and East Asian ancestry who fit this profile is huge among U.S. South Asians and among U.S. East Asians in places other than the West Coast, and is still very substantial even on the West Coast where there are also significant numbers of East Asians whose ancestors immigrated in the 19th century as menial laborers (although still fit immigrants) as Razib described in his comment.

    African Americans in the U.S., alas, in addition to having very remote immigration histories (almost all have ancestors who arrived in the U.S. at least seven generations ago which is far more remote than most U.S. whites and Asians) also did not benefit from having fit immigrant ancestors because their ancestors arrival was not voluntary and the pool from which their ancestors was chosen was at least temporarily unfit (often prisoners of war and others in a subordinate socioeconomic position at home who wouldn’t have been enslaved had they been more successful).

    Of course, even then, there was at least strong selection for physical fitness and psychological resilience among the newly enslaved Africans, because the harsh conditions of the middle passage and the hardships of slave life literally killed a huge proportion of them who were less resistant to disease, who were physically frail, or who were not psychologically resilient. (This may, for example, be one reason for the low rate of suicide among today’s African Americans).

  2. Re: upthread discussion of whether ANI:ASI drives differences in education outcomes in India, or if potential multi-modality has another source, performance of Bangladeshi and Pakistani second gen in education in UK another bit of evidence that suggests that’s not the driver. Both are at different places in the Indian ANI:ASI cline – Pakistanis on average about equivalent Upper Caste level, Bangladeshis about Middle-Low – and both unselected (or at least not selected to differentially) but education performance seems identical, or slightly to the advantage of the Bengalis.

    Re: migration as purely a selective force in itself (OhWilleke), interesting paper mentioned here – – with in theory migration selecting for self reliance, or individual competition fitness, and lower collectivism (maybe fitness in collectivist contexts?).

    Society level income (the wealth of nations) does tentatively seem to depend on different factors than individual level income. Intelligence/education (or perhaps more accurately rather the ability to be at the world R&D frontier and catch up to it), gratification deferral, and simple ability to have functioning, non-corrupt political culture, seem pretty important (pace Garett Jones) for society level wealth.

    On the other hand, those factors less important at determining individual level income, and it seems likely that there is relatively more importance at individual level from “surgency”, ambition, drive, charisma, optimism, “animal spirits”, etc which conversely have more questionable impact at the “Hive Mind” level (my subjective impression is that nations of people with high “hustle” and entrepreneurialism don’t actually seem particularly outstandingly rich in terms of production at a national level, or it doesn’t matter as much to their quality of life when they are).

    With physical illness rates (physical fitness) and migration, degenerative disease rates tend to be low at ages at which people migrate (or at least migrate and then reproduce), and then reveal themselves later, so it seems unlikely that there would be a large difference in post-migration subsets from removing very low levels of people who’ve accidentally become disabled at young ages or something. There’s probably some, but it’s not much heritable or lasting. Re: mental disease (mental fitness), I know schiz tends to be higher in have-migrated communities, but I don’t think anyone fully understands why. Schiz also higher in communities that leave to go to the cities, which is going to be partially a similar kind of individualism selection effect.

  3. “Despite the recent tendency of Indian society to espouse a stronger Hindu nationalist line, which is at odds with the West”

    What do you mean by this? Do you mean an Indian backlash against Post Modernism?

  4. “Re: mental disease (mental fitness), I know schiz tends to be higher in have-migrated communities, but I don’t think anyone fully understands why. Schiz also higher in communities that leave to go to the cities, which is going to be partially a similar kind of individualism selection effect.”

    There is pretty convincing evidence that the urban-rural divide in Schizophrenia rates is due to migration of people with the condition from rural areas to urban areas that work better for them.

    Social stress in urban life has been proposed as an environmental risk factor associated with the increased prevalence of schizophrenia in urban compared to rural areas. However, the potential genetic contributions to this relationship have been largely ignored.

    Using a community-based sample of 15,544 adults living in Australia, we found higher genetic loading for schizophrenia in participants living in more densely populated (p-value=5.69*10-5) or less remote areas (p-value=0.003). Mendelian Randomization suggested that high schizophrenia genetic risk is a causal factor in choosing to live in denser (p-value=0.046) and less remote areas (p-value=0.044).

    Our results support the hypothesis of selective migration to more urban environments by people at higher genetic risk for schizophrenia and suggest a need to refine the social stress model for schizophrenia by including genetic influences on where people choose to live.

    Lucia Colodro-Conde, et al., “Higher genetic risk for schizophrenia is associated with living in urban and populated areas” biorXiv (August 23, 2017) doi:

  5. Vijay: “The comparison of Singapore and HK are incorrect” – Why?

    You then go straight into saying “Unlike in US, contract workers in Singapore” You seem to think that HK is in America.

    “contract workers in Singapore are neither allowed nor can afford to stay on” – Same as in HK. So why is the comparison invalid?

    “Large scale contract workforce movement in Asia is a feature, and does not resemble Mexicans in US at all.” No shit. Twinkie and I were discussing specifically the ‘squeeze’ in Singapore, which you then appear to confirm is ‘real’. So, I don’t get your point, or why you bring up lots of other stuff that is irrelevant to what we were discussing. If you don’t know anything about HK and its regulations governing import of temporary contract workers, and how strictly these regulations are enforced, you might not want to try to tell me I don’t know what I’m talking about.

  6. you might not want to try to tell me I don’t know what I’m talking about.

    Yes, but this is not your blog, so he can say what he wants unless Mr. Khan intervened. Sound familiar?

    Sorry, I couldn’t help it since that was your response to me pointing out that you interjected with something unrelated to the topic at hand. 🙂

  7. Not saying that, Twinkie. In response to him saying my comparison was wrong without any explanation of why, I was inviting him to explain why.

    I’ll take the hit from you uncomplainingly. Don’t remember, but probably deserved. I did previously initially snipe at you in a snide way without provocation, which I shouldn’t have done. I don’t take these things personally, especially not from Mongols 🙂

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