However, it was in the course of the talk that one can gain some really interesting knowledge. For one thing, both China and India were imperialized -- in different ways -- during the first half of the 20th century. During periods in which both of these large nations were being controlled, directly or otherwise, by other nations, the health of the Chinese and Indian populations stagnated while the rest of the world increased. (Health was measured via life expectancy.) In addition, per capita income moved nowhere. Using Rosling's visualizations, China and India were two "bubbles" just sitting in the same spot for decades while the rest of the world moved to higher and healthier places.
When their respective imperial forces were ousted, however -- the British for the Indians; the Japanese, British, Americans, and end of the civil war for the Chinese -- the quality of life for both nations quickly increased.
A similar relationship can be found among many circumstances in which a population is being controlled by an "outside force" -- i.e., a government unelected by or foreign to their own people. The reason seems pretty straightforward: when a foreign country is controlling another, then it is usually imposing laws and moving resources in a way that benefits the foreign country rather than the native population.
Or is it straightforward? Currently, in Afghanistan, although Western forces want to leave a stable, prosperous nation to the Afghans, the health of the people has plummeted. According to the UN's Human Development Index -- which measures quality of life using life expectancy, education indicators, and GDP per capita -- since 2001, when the Taliban were pushed out of power by foreign forces, Afghanistan has dropped from 117th to 181st in the world, making it the second worst-off country on Earth.
This horrible news comes despite the money, lives, and attention given to Afghanistan by Western nations. And this is an instructive lesson about foreign occupation: imperialism isn't always malintentioned. Indeed, neo-imperialism is often damaging to the very people the occupiers hope to assist. (Even if the assistance is ultimately meant to serve the interests of the occupiers, as is the case in Afghanistan.)
The culprit is the foreign forces themselves. As long as there is any major resistance, like the Taliban in Afghanistan, there will be major armed conflict between the foreign and domestic forces. The insecurity associated with this, as well as the death and disease directly related to the fighting itself, will doom the greater society to stagnation as resources are poured into the security matters and developmental policies become too unsafe to effectively implement.
This should raise questions about the utility of occupation and nation-building. Despite any purported intended benefits for a nation's people, these engagements drag out conflicts that ultimately suffocate the people. More effective assistance, then, might look to keep the developmental aspects of a strategy -- like education, trade, investment, and medicine -- while removing the antagonists -- namely, the occupiers.