Race of the Titans

Lead review

The book Superpowers? The Amazing race between China’s Hare and India’s Tortoise by Raghav Behl  provides an excellent insight into the strengths and weaknesses  of two emerging world powers: China and India who are considered to be among the tallest pillars of the new economic order. China believes in quick results and fast movement to achieve its goals like the hare while India believes in growth by respecting its democratic traditions which implies slow and steady movement like a tortoise.

32 years back, our economy was bigger than that of China’s. Two decades ago, Chinese GDP was the same size as that of India. But what’s the scene now? China is almost five times the size of India in terms of nominal GDP. India’s GDP is estimated to be around USD 1.2 trillion while China’s is close to USD 5 trillion. The book written in a very lucid style analyses the causes of India’s falling back in great detail and compares the economic and industrial  strengths of China and India and their efforts to gain supremacy with the analogy of the fable on the race between hare and tortoise. The book has brought out the strong points of the Indian system without demeaning all aspects as most people tend to do. The book makes interesting reading. At the same time, each section of the book contains interesting facts. The contents are very well researched, rich in historical perspective, and has analytical rigor.

In the race to superpower status, who is likely to win the race — China’s hare or India’s tortoise? China’s awe-inspiring zeal to beat all compared to India’s relatively mild rise, could tempt readers to give an easy answer. But Behl argues that the answer is not easy. India’s superior innovative skills and aptitude for entrepreneurship will be a turning point. India’s sound financial system, strong judiciary, transparency in decision making, large and young population will help in checkmating the hegemony of China in the near future.

China and India were the quickest to bounce back after the Lehman crisis. China’s rebound was accompanied by huge debt and deflation as prices and demands were weak. India’s turnaround was sturdier, caused by lower debt and modest inflation. China’s currency Yuan is known for being artificially undervalued while India’s  rupee  floats against world currencies. India’s stock Market is one of the biggest in the world in terms of volume of shares transacted.

The book is divided into five chapters covers different aspects: Geo-politics, Entrepreneurs, Consumers and English Speakers, Urbanisation and Infrastructure and Social infrastructure. As stated in the first part of the book, in 1978, both the hare and the tortoise were at the starting line. The hare took off, jumping forward with shots of steroid while the tortoise was forced to stay put in the starting line. For 13 years the hare sped forward, but the tortoise remained chained by political turmoil, and non visionary leadership. In 1991, the chain was cut loose and the tortoise started limping forward. While the Chinese hare was running, the Indian tortoise was moving slowly and stealthily which became a laughing point of the world. But the events after the Lehman collapse exposed the strength of Indian economy. The Indian tortoise could absorb the shock better than that of China. The political system in China undoubtedly favours quick implementation of all decisions which are primarily based on their national interests and  on patriotism. Indian democracy is a stumbling block in the decision making process. However India has more entrepreneurs than China and the world acknowledges the Indian entrepreneurship style. China has given lot of importance to infrastructure and making highways, India generally neglected these aspects in the first few decades. While China has extensively  developed its railways network, Indian Railways still follows the system laid by the British. While India had advantage over China in many areas three decades back, China has overtaken India in many of these aspects in the last few years.
The book is brilliantly written, full of facts presented in a easy to read, rich and gives a comprehensive account of the race of dominance between China and India. It does not downgrade the Indian system but argues how these will eventually help in India being in the race. The conclusions are not easy to make and the author has rightfully not tried to do so but left it to posterity to judge. Reading the book arouses a sense of patriotism as the author clearly brings out the strong points of the Indian system which has helped the country to tide over several crises in the past and may help in the future.

Super power? Raghav Bahl
Allen Lane
2010, pp 272
Rs. 699

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