Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Two Giant Shows!

Book Review:-SUPERPOWER? The Amazing Race between China’s Hare and India’s Tortoise by Raghav Bahl {PENGUIN, ALLEN LANE, 2010, RS699}.

The two Asian giants-Indian and China are now undoubtedly the force to reckon with, after their long hibernation out of plundering colonial setbacks, these two nations are now retrieving their civilisational glory. With many commonness and ofcourse differences, relation between India-China stands on antagonistic construct…historically very close until the defiance of trust did by the China in 1962 that permanently fixed a big if in the psyche of Indians. Though with enhanced aspirations in new world order, both Indian and China are constructively heading to defy all the adverse obstinate impediments with wider framework to usher in a special kind of relationship primarily based on economic interests. Indeed it’s a way forward to cope with the swiftly changing geo-politics…time now is to revisit the history, politics, economics, culture of these two superpower with new insights but without burying the old prudence.

Raghav Bahl {Journalist, founder Network18 Media} did this superbly with his scintillating views and meticulous documentation that easily lead the readers to comprehensive realities of the race of dominance between the two powerful neighbors. This book, {SUPERPOWER? The Amazing Race between China’s Hare and India’s Tortoise} presents the narratives, how the India and China going to make history within their own set of rules. China’s monolithic political system and India’s vibrant democracy-both with their pros and cons are occupying a stout functional feet to show the resistance at global platform. Preface marks the distinction of Indian growth which is statistically sluggish than China’s achievements…title says it better, why don’t they get India?

Prologue of the book has demystifying hold, China and the Art of Escape Velocity? Napoleon’s quote which is an all time super remarks, vehemently define the China and its inclusion completely fit here. Paul Krugman’s The Myth of Asia’s Miracle: A Cautionary Fable gives an ample back up to consider on the Raghav’s insistence on knowing closely the intricacies of Chinese miracle vis-à-vis the leaders of world economy. Albeit it will be overestimation to anticipate by the assumptions that who’s going to be swift and finally on crest-China’s Hare or India’s Tortoise…here is need to be adequately judgmental.

Which way will history turn? Raghav is exactly right in reminding the readers that history unfolds over several decades, perhaps even in fractions of centuries and a search of perfect match of growth between these two countries will be an abrupt proposition. If China rebound post financial meltdown wit huge debt and vicious deflation side-by-side the weak demand and prices-India’s experience was much better with lower debt and modest inflation. It will be also worthwhile to know that India’s nominal GDP grew twice as fast as China’s for a few quarters-remarkably, it’s a first such experience in last three decades. So, the notion of India, who? Seems eroding with a positive world view for India story. Goldman Sach’s brainchild, BRIC {2001} strengthened the world views for India’s slot only next to U.S.A and China in the years ahead…this sounds realistic, even when the author himself acknowledge the many odds in the way but China is also not immune from adversities. For knowing the fragility of Chinese growth, reading of Premshankar Jha’s scripture like work on China “Managed Chaos “gives the appropriate scenic realities behind the China’s miraculous growth!

The Race Begins:- This is a catching nomenclature of a chapter inside the book which precisely relates to what the term exists between India and China. With big markets and sound indications, China and India have emerged as “shock observer” after the global financial meltdown-may be theirs ties will be shoot up atleast in economic arena but chances are feeble that China will give India any space within the ambit of its “Asian solidarity” block. This closeness of China naturally evolve the doubting stances over its intention but the aspiration for material growth is stronger than any other tantrums, so it’s possible that China will maintain a balancing ties with its most close competitor-India. Quotation of M.J.Akbar “The language of conflict has passed its sell by date. The poor want to be part of the Indian Rising Story” can be maximized here in Chinese context too.

A Hare on Steroids:- Chapter delves with the China’s downside of growth and its complex consumerism that yields many grave concern generally surpassed under the China’s complacent indicators. In next chapter “A Tortoise with new Muscle” inquisite the structural edge of India’s growth, here Stephan Rouch’s views gives sublime touch. The next chapter “Rule of Law, Rule by Law” searches the base of Chinese Law in “Patriotism”-infact, the Chinese state uses laws as policy instrument instead like western democracies where the principle of law believe as supreme and all public policy to be implemented within the law. Here, a missing link is quite evident from China’s own experiment with a liberal system in 1912, after the fall of Qing dynasty…today; China hardly carries even a tint of liberal vision of Sanayat Sen. Ahead of this, Raghav beautifully dwell with the India’s democratic experiments along with a full overview of Indian constitution. Reference of Bhagalpur incident of late 1980’s and Olga Tellis {1981, Bombay} protest against the BMC ruling of eviction for pavement dwellers present the uncomfortable face of our democracy. Next, a fine delineation has made over the China’s story of virtual justice and the state of corruption in both the country…byline is too much sultry-My Scam is better than your Scam!

Geo-politics:- Niall Ferguson’s brainchild CHINMERICA or Journalist Joshua Ramo’s coined term “Beijing Consensus” to draw the attention how China has maximized its stature and outgrew the “Washington Consensus” in investments, aid and trade to Africa appears too much apprehensive from western perspectives. China gave lease to such expectations by spending over $55billion during the 2010 Shanghai World Expo to remind the world that its economy remained unscratched from the grave financial recession of 2008. Undoubtedly, such showing of China and to an extant of India has rearranged the world of an Eagle {U.S.A}, a Dragon {China} and Elephant {India}.

Though this book adequately covers the India’s landmarks in foreign and strategic affairs but it scrimp few detailed take on China’s potential role in India-Pakistan &India-Nepal relation. China’s cold war era complexes are hardly fading away despite the all progress, it should be the India’s primary concern to leverage China for an all round collaboration because it’s alone China which tolls around half of India’s strategic attention. India know much better that the tag of “Sleeping Tiger” is things of past for China under the new ambition and feeble moral restraint.

Part three of the book, Entrepreneurs, Consumers and English speaking is naturally India-centric-remarks of George Soros on India “Your entrepreneurs have built world class companies which I simply don’t see in China…such views are common placed. India also has edge with demographic dividend and systemic transparency…the worst thing happened in China that its communal enterprise turned into cronyism. Still India is away from such large scale coercive methods to achieve quick and visible success…noticeable is the fact, era of Sanjay Gandhi never repeated in India unlike the Deng Xiaoping’s tracts that kept flowing relentlessly in China. China’s capitalism is complex and ambiguous; most of its enterprise is in state control or owned by the party organs and theirs command.

Part fourth of the book “Urbanization and Infrastructure” presents a sound comparison between India and China on the very important issues. Here China has lead with its single minded strategy on building infrastructure…India is now too following the big dreams with emphatic eagerness, the next few years will bring some level playing in this regard. The concluding part of the book revolves around “Social Infrastructure”-Raghav has succeeded to make his point that Chinese consumerism is on peak under the better equitable economic arrangement of China. The Indian case is of fifty-fifty market, which leading historian Ramchandra Guha said on India’s experiment with market reform…book ends with such conclusion.

At some front, China has edge but it’s grappling with many serious systemic flaws unlike the India where democracy is vibrant and freedom of action is inherent. Years ahead will be very vital for both the India and China… these two nations are now naturally placed to lead the world, if these two nations can collaborate in fresh spirits, theirs dominance will be enhanced many folds. More and more of understanding of Chinese policies are needed…work of Raghav Bahl is promising in this regard-addition of knowledge on China will be remain worthwhile from Indian perspectives…after all, we are now aspiring for new dimensions in our relationship.

Atul Kumar Thakur
May 31, 2011, Tuesday, New Delhi
Email: summertickets@gmail.com


  1. Thank you for your mail and the interesting info on Kadambri's maithili origins. I will have a look at your blog when I return.
    Best wishes
    Sudhir Kakar

  2. Thanks. Liked this. More pointed and focused..Bibek Debroy

  3. Your blog seems indepth and well researched. God luck for it, and all your other writing.

    Best regards. Sunaina

  4. I'll certainly take a look at your blog - do
    stay in touch.


  5. Look forward to reading your pieces.


    Surinder S. Jodhka
    Professor of Sociology
    Centre for the Study of Social Systems
    School of Social Sciences
    Jawaharlal Nehru University
    New Delhi 110067 (India)

  6. Dear Atulji,

    It is always my pleasure to go through your blogs because they always contain very good piece of information written in a wonderful style.
    Your bhaiji also used to tell me before about your writing talent and we all are very proud that we have such a talented writer in our family...Pooja,Chicago

  7. Thanks so much Atul for sharing your writing. And do keep reading and writing.

    Best regards,


  8. .
    I read your articles and benefited from it.

  9. Nice reading your blog.

    Thnx & Regards,

    Robin Roy
    PwC | Associate Director (Financial Services)

  10. Excellent review on Raghav Bahl's book...easy accessibility on blog is an added delight-Ashutosh Thakur

  11. A worthy write up in the form of book review,you have again championed with your own research and narration-Sumit Ganguly