Purpose ‐ China and India, increasingly referred to as the world's emerging giants among emerging economies, represent the second and fourth largest economies in the world, respectively. This paper seeks to provide a comparative assessment of these two countries on selected measures on economic growth and social development. Design/methodology/approach ‐ The paper's approach is a discussion, providing a brief introduction to the approach taken by India and China in pursuing economic growth and social welfare measures. The discussion then focuses on the relationship between economic liberalization and social development against a backdrop of relevant concepts and arguments from the literature. Comparative profiles of India and China on select dimensions using data from World Economic Indicators and other sources are provided. Findings ‐ The paper finds that it is clear that there are areas where India can learn from China and vice versa. Originality/value ‐ The paper illustrates that these two countries offer a potentially rich and useful canvas for exploring the social implications of free market capitalism.