The reflexion on social democracy in India and China is a new research area to be initiated in 2014 by the network. The group will be composed of scholars and intellectuals drawn from China, India, and Europe.
The exhaustion of social democracy, both as a political project and as a system of social provision for citizens, has recently been lamented across its original homelands in Europe and the West. But in the world’s two most dynamic economies and populous societies, China and India, the question of social democracy has today acquired a new urgency.
In the case of both China and India, rapid economic growth, within societies that remain largely poor and where the state is struggling to develop workable systems of social provision and delivery, have come together to raise a set of social and political challenges to the continuing stability of the growth strategies adopted by each country.
The current development paths of China and India raise sharply the question with which European societies have long struggled (and which they believed they had resolved through the invention of social democracy): Do rapid growth and widespread inequality necessarily go hand in hand? And can the latter be lessened without undermining the former?
An Asian social democracy would not simply seek to replicate a classical welfare state model of top-down state dispensed provisions. In this respect, the efforts by China and India to work out the terms of a new social contract between state and citizen could help to re-energize a European debate on social democracy – and could help in unexpected ways to further the original universalist intentions of European social democracy.