As previously mentioned, I've recently been on a whirlwind tour of China and India. I only touched on a half dozen cities, so I'm aware that my perceptions are skewed, but here's what I saw.
In the major cities in China, I was struck by the fast growth of infrastructure - roads, power, subways, buildings, etc. I wish I had counted, but I think a highway merge I was on in Beijing had more than 20 lanes in each direction. In 16 years, the rice fields of Pudong
across the Bund have been replaced by skyscrapers rivaling Shanghai
on the opposite side. The theory in China appears to be that if you have sufficient infrastructure, the businesses will have a foundation on which to grow and, as a result, expand the economy.
And, I was doubly struck by the amount of English. There was English on all major highway signs
, street signs, at least 1/3 of the billboards, and subway maps, making it relatively easy for me to navigate. I think this is a very intelligent way to attract international business. I remember my friends traveling to Japan for business in the 1980's and early 90's and being completely unable to navigate without assistance because they could not read the characters. I've had the same experience traveling a little in Russia and the Ukraine, where at least I could carry a copy of the cyrillic alphabet that I've reordered to correspond with the English alphabet so that I can sound out words. In China, I discovered that a little bit of strategically placed English goes a long way towards making one feel comfortable and more likely to return.
In India, I saw a different model. Rather than big government infrastructure projects, I saw individual enterprises building regions of infrastructure. A single company will build a campus with offices, housing, recreation, etc. as well as its own power generation and water filtration systems. The process here appears to be that as Indian companies capture outsourcing dollars from the rest of the world, the money will trickle down through the economy. For example, if the successful IT professional buys a car, then he is willing to pay people who will put gas in the car, service the car, and wash the car.
In the major cities in both countries there is a tremendous amount of confidence among people that their countries are in the ascendancy. Taxi drivers, hotel workers, store clerks, when asked, will talk about the increasing opportunities for education and advancement for their children. Business and government officials talk readily about the increasing competition for qualified professionals and the rapid escalation of salaries. (Perhaps it is a bit like the US during the heady early days of the space race and nuclear power?) Over the next ten years, it will be interesting to see whether one of these two models prevails.