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China, India: Who is bigger? A statistical experiment

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It is common knowledge that China with its 1,35 billion inhabitants has the largest population in the world, while India ranks second with some 1,25 billion. It is also often stated, especially in India, that India with its higher population growth will overtake China by the year 2023. All figures and dates are approximate. It is a well-known sphere of competition between the two Asian giants, who are, with this respect, also global giants. A very recent official statement from the Indian Government adds to these dimensions the alleged news that India has surpassed the Chinese economic growth rate over the last quarter. This is meaningful because it expresses India’s desire, to match also China’s economic size, not only its population. With these aspirations and figures in mind, we have started a statistical experiment. Assuming that economic data must have its reflection on the medias’ attention for the two giants, we chose the British Financial Times (FT) newspaper, for many the best newspaper in the world, and have checked, how often China resp. India appear in the headlines and titles of its articles, all categories, articles, op-ed, letters etc. combined, but also all fields combined covered by the articles such as trade, finances, corporate news etc. This is what we found out for the two months period of 1st October to 29th November 2016, i.e. the most recent media coverage. China stands for 28 mentions, India for 17 mentions in titles. This results in a ratio of roughly 5 : 3 in favour of China, certainly not perfectly representative for statistical purposes, but reasonably indicative. This is just the first step of the experiment. The second is the question how this ratio correlates with the economic reality. We could choose between the GDP, which represents the domestic economy, and the countries’ share in international trade, which would probably be more relevant for FT-readers. The comparison of China and India based on their respective GDP (again in rough figures, taken from IMF statistics for 2015), some 9’200’000 million US dollars for China and some 1’900’000 million US dollars for India, results in a ratio of 5 : 1. Calculated on the fairer figures of the purchasing power parity PPP (13’400’000 million US dollars for China against 5’100’000 million US dollars for India), the ratio would be 5 : 2. Finally, we did look at the figures for the two countries’ share in world trade, because we assume that international media prefer to write about China’s and India’s relevance for the world rather than about their domestic development. These are the figures for their shares in global export statistics: China 13,8 %, India 1,6 %. On global import statistics, the shares are, for China 10,1 % and for India 2,3 %. This tells us that as export nations, China and India, with their global shares, relate to each other with a ratio of roughly 8 : 1, as importers they relate to each other with 5 : 1. In other words, while the FT seems to favour China rather than India in its media coverage, with a ratio of 5 : 3, these proportions are still very favourable for India, when you look at the economic reality, be that the domestic aspect or the international trade. Put differently, the London based Financial Times has a relative pro-India bias. Whether this conclusion is a far cry from merry old British India, terminated in 1947, is left to historians or psychologists. For our readers it is just an analytical experiment, or a statistical game. Why not, for once?


30th November 2016 / Philippe Welti
(Source: Financial Times headlines and titles from 1st October until 29th November 2016)

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