Chinese Roads in India: The Effect of Transport Infrastructure on Economic Development

67 Pages Posted: 20 Oct 2016 Last revised: 9 Mar 2023

See all articles by Simon Alder

Simon Alder

Swiss National Bank; University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill

Date Written: October 27, 2016


India and China followed different strategies in the design of their recent highway networks. India first focused on connecting the four largest economic centers of the country, the Golden Quadrilateral, while China had the explicit strategy of connecting intermediate-sized cities. The two countries also experienced different regional development patterns, with stronger convergence in China. This paper analyzes the aggregate and distributional effects of transport infrastructure in India based on a general equilibrium trade framework. I compare the effect of the Golden Quadrilateral to a counterfactual network that connects India's intermediate-sized cities. To construct the counterfactual network, I propose a heuristic network design algorithm to maximize aggregate real income net of road construction costs in the general equilibrium model, and I show that the heuristic algorithm provides a good approximation of the optimal network. The results suggest that the actual network led to sizable aggregate gains but unequal effects across regions. The income-maximizing counterfactual network is substantially larger than the actual Indian network, would imply further aggregate gains, and would benefit the lagging regions of India.

Keywords: Transport Infrastructure, Economic Growth, Regional Development, Trade, Network Design, India, China, Geographic Information System, Satellite Data, Night Lights

JEL Classification: F11, F14, F15, O11, O18, R12, R13

Suggested Citation

Alder, Simon, Chinese Roads in India: The Effect of Transport Infrastructure on Economic Development (October 27, 2016). Available at SSRN: or

Simon Alder (Contact Author)

Swiss National Bank ( email )

Economic Affairs
Zuerich, 8022

University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill ( email )

Chapel Hill, NC 27599
United States

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