While I find myself nodding in agreement with much of what both experts have to say, I hesitate slightly when discussion turns to a near-comparison between growth in China and Africa. While neither scholar seems to be suggesting that China's path to growth can inform a similar phenomenon in Africa - or otherwise delving into very nuanced discussion of the similarities and differences between the process in both regions - I nevertheless feel inclined to caution against any such analogies. There are, of course, lessons which various African countries can learn from China - particularly as regards agricultural policies - but there are many constraints which hinder a direct, general analysis.
- Africa's higher levels of income inequality. At the time of China's economic reform, inequality was lower in China (a Gini index well under 30%) than found in all but a couple countries in sub-Saharan Africa today
- The continent's high dependency rates
- Africa's low population density, which impacts on matters such as technological innovation and the cost of supplying certain forms of basic infrastructure
- Africa's weaker state institutions (Blattman's point about differing political climes, etc.)
Of course drawing any comparisons between China and Africa is also somewhat ridiculous, as we're dealing with one country and an entire continent. While this is quite an obvious point to make, you would be surprised at how many people conflate the two.
In short, there are many factors which preclude one from deducing too much about growth in Africa based on how it was played out in China. From my reading, both Easterly and Blattman appear on the brink of such an analysis, but quite wisely never take the plunge. It is precisely for this reason that theirs proves a truly worthwhile debate. Do read it.