September 2010
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Superpower : The amazing Race between China's Hare and India's Tortoise


Is India ready for superpower status? Or are we irretrievably behind in the game of catch-up with China?


In his career as a journalist and one of India’s top entrepreneurs, Raghav Bahl has often faced a barrage of questions from visiting businesspeople bewildered by India: Why are Indian regulations so weak and confusing? Why is your foreign investment policy so restrictive? How come your hotels are world-class, when the roads leading to them are so pot-holed? How is it that you speak such good English?


Inevitably, the questions are followed by the observation: But, you know, that’s not the way it is in China.

Indeed, even as the dragon and elephant economies are together projected to dominate the world in a matter of decades, there is a palpable difference in the way China and India work on the ground. China is spectacularly effective in building infrastructure and is currently investing almost half its GDP; it is crafting a new economic idiom that has stood textbook wisdom on its head. Meanwhile, India is the classic example of a ‘promising’ economy: more than half its GDP is consumed by its billion-plus population; half its population is younger than twenty-five, giving it a unique demographic advantage; 350 million Indians understand English, making it the largest English-using country in the world; and it is, of course, the world’s largest democracy.


In the race to superpower status, who is likely to breast the tape—China’s hare or India’s tortoise? China’s awe-inspiring sweep, compared to India’s relatively mild rise, could tempt an easy answer. But Bahl argues that the winner of the race with the biggest stakes ever might not be determined by who is investing more and growing faster today, but by something slightly more intangible—who has superior innovative skills and more entrepreneurial savvy and is grappling with and expanding in the most intensely competitive conditions.

 
At the end, it might come down to just one deciding factor: Can India fix its governance before China repairs its politics?


With telling insights into the two Asian powers’ histories, polities, economies and cultures, Superpower. The Amazing Race Between China’s Hare and India’s Tortoise is a brilliantly written, superbly documented, rich and comprehensive account of the race to dominance between the two neighbours. For anyone looking to understand China and India and the ways in which these two nations are about to change the history of the world, this is the book to read.

 
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