I spent a couple of days last week with 50 CEOs at a retreat led by Tina Packer, head of the Shakespeare company in Lennox, MA. The Boston Globe wrote an article on the retreat: http://www.boston.com/business/globe/articles/2006/03/10/executives_confront_their_inner_hamlets/.
Shakespeare wrote and performed his plays at a time of intense change in England. The country was finally united under Queen Elizabeth and had become a Protestant nation. The theater was an alternate venue from the church for public discourse. Rhetoric (the gift of gab as I call it) and the rule of law emerged as a way to settle disputes, with the sword relegated to the professional soldier. At that time I learned, England was the most litigous country in the world. I believe as a result of rhetoric scientific thinking became prevalent and England went on to colonize the world with its superior technology and economic innovation.
The US inherited this love of rhetoric and law with the settling of the Puritans in Massachusetts. In time the US became the leader in innovation and controversially, the most litigous country in the world! Freedom of thought and economic pursuits are ingrained in the constitution (a marvel of rhetoric), forming an oasis that economic immigrants from around the world have flocked to.
So if rhetoric and the rule of law predicate the growth of countries what does that portend for China and India? First of all I would argue that rhetoric and the rule of law are more necessary in diverse countries than homogeneous ones. Japan has done reasonably well as a one-party state for over 50 years (a multi-party state being a proxy for vigorous national debate and rhetoric). I would also argue that smaller, diverse countries can also get away with less rhetoric (eg Singapore). This would suggest that large, diverse countries such as China, India and Russia will enjoy economic growth only in an environment of rhetoric and rule of law. So why do these countries have such different rates of growth given that India has the most rhetoric and China the least? I think the answer is that it is a marathon not a sprint. Over 30-50 years India should emerge as the economic leader, Russia second and China last. That is assuming the status quo. In reality, under Putin Russia is limiting rhetoric and should therefore slow down economically. China has an historic opportunity to increase rhetoric and emerge as a true world power. India must grow fast enough so its abundance of rhetoric does not turn into a populist revolution of the underclass led by socialist thinkers (witness the growth of Maoist rebels all over South Asia).