For as long as we can remember, folks have been talking about China as the "next India."
Every region of the world -- from Latin America to Eastern Europe to Africa -- wants to be the "next India." Yet China seems to be the only country with the population, the skills and, perhaps most important, the drive to make it happen.
As fast as India's outsourcing economy is growing, China's is growing faster -- 36 percent a year, according to Analysys International, which projects it will reach $4 billion by 2009.
Some executives, like the CEO of software development firm Freeborders, insist Chinese developers are more creative thinkers than their Indian counterparts. And the country's infrastructure tends to be more reliable, at least partially due to government economy-building initiatives.
Indian firms like Tata Consultancy Services are rushing to beef up their Chinese presence. Tata, which is in a joint venture deal with Microsoft, expects to multiply its Chinese workforce by more than 10 times over the next five years, to 5,000 employees. Other major investors in China include IBM, HP and Siemens.
It's also becoming a destination of choice for management types hoping to hone their skills and get a leg up in the global economy. A Dallas Morning News article quotes a Texas attorney who accepted a position there as saying China is "the industrial revolution in early 19th-century America all over again."
That bit of hyperbole notwithstanding, there are, of course, challenges: cultural differences, concerns over intellectual property and, oh yeah, a Communist regime.
Some observers, like an executive quoted in this BusinessWeek article, say it will be at least a decade before China's IT outsourcing industry will rival India's.
Yet few seem to doubt it will happen. The question is "when" rather than "if" -- a question that no other country appears ready to pose just yet.