They won't be doing it in tandem. China has powered ahead, but India's turn will come after 2015 even as China's fortunes start receding. But by 2030, Asia, fueled by India as much as China, "will be well on its way to returning to being the world's powerhouse, just as it was before 1500," says "Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds," a report issued by the US National Intelligence Council, the brains' trust of the US intelligence community. Pakistan will be a no-show and may not even exist.
The report shows that India will surge ahead after 2020 even as China begins to wane or decelerate, mainly on account of demographic changes which will see China aging before India. "As the world's largest economic power, China is expected to remain ahead of India, but the gap could begin to close by 2030. India's rate of economic growth is likely to rise while China's slows," the report says, adding, "In 2030 India could be the rising economic powerhouse that China is seen to be today. China's current economic growth rate -- 8 to 10 percent -- will probably be a distant memory."
According to the report, the total size of the Chinese working-age population will peak in 2016 and decline from 994 million to about 961 million in 2030. In contrast, India's working-age population is unlikely to peak until about 2050. In terms of timeline, India's demographic window of opportunity is between 2015 to 2050, whereas China's is 1990 to 2025. In contrast, the US fecundity was at its best between 1970 to 2015, presaging the country's gradual decline. India's median age, currently at 26, will be 32 by 2030, still the lowest among the top ten economies in the world.
The report forecasts that sometime after 2030, India, not China will have the world's largest middle-class consumption, bigger than US and EU combined. But both China and India, it says, faces the prospect of being trapped in middle-income status, with their per capita income not continuing to increase to the level of the world's advanced economies unless they resolve their resource constraints (mainly water, energy, food) and invest more in science and technology to continue to move their economy up the value chain.
Indeed, the India-China economic journey is not without hurdles or pitfalls, especially with regards to the global scrap for resources and the effects of climate change. But if they surmount the difficulties and things pan out well, India and China will dominate a world in 2030 that will largely be "middle-class, not poor, which has been the condition of most people throughout human history."