Buy India, Sell China?

A recent article on Fortune on Another Global Recession? Buy India, Sell China caught my attention because, while I think China is over-hyped, I’m not sure India is ready for prime yet due to their infrastructure problems and the issues with getting freight from even a few hundred miles inland in many parts of the country. China still has problems, but they have been investing Billions to improve their infrastructure in recent years and making progress at a rapid rate whereas India, with twenty-eight states and seven union territories, and 22 languages of official status, has been slow to tackle their logistics challenges due to the very long timeframes it takes to get agreements on projects of a national scale. (It probably doesn’t help that the Republic of India is a federation with a parliamentary system that was based on that of Great Britain, where some projects take so long that they literally cross career life-spans!)

So why is the article recommending to Buy India, and Sell China? According to the authors, even though BRIC countries are growing at a rapid rate, countries like Brazil and China are doing so at the expense of other countries — primarily by supplying the global economy with raw materials and manufacturing. If major financial crises (continue to) materialize in the US and the EU, and global demand slumps significantly, these countries are going to get hit the hardest and the growth-rates of nearly 10% will be unsustainable. (And depending on which fear-monger you ask, growth could come to a screeching halt.) And this doesn’t even take into account the deep financial exposure China has to troubled regions through its massive foreign exchange reserves.

On the other hand, poorer, insulated economies like India are in much better shape to weather the storm and, in some economists’ views, even see a silver lining if major obstacles (such as nosebleed inflation rates) decline or disappear.

I have to agree, but only to a point. China is experiencing a rapid rise in its middle class at home and the local economy is booming as well. Plus it has a very aggressive five year plan, and a history of meeting those five year plans. While it will get hit hard, and probably drop down to a growth rate of 5% if a double-dip global recession hits us (just like its growth rate fell from 13% in 2007 to 6.8% in 2008), it will continue to grow and, more importantly, will likely be the first to recover when the double-dip recession ends (if it does hit us).

In other words, if you are one of the few investors left with the brains to take a long term view, don’t count China out yet. It may experience a few bumps, but it will figure out how to smooth them over as it builds its global highways. Moreover, if you’re looking to get rich quick, it will likely be another decade before India provides you with that opportunity. If you’re patient, I believe you can win with both economies.