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Superpower? The Amazing Race Between China's Hare and India's Tortoise.


Raghav Bahl

(New York: Portfolio/Penguin, 2010), 242 pages.

The ongoing race between India and China lies at the center of Raghav Bahl's research on the rise of the two rivals to superpower status. Using the famed fable of the tortoise and the hare as a metaphor for his inquiry, Bahl probes the social, political, economic and historical infrastructure of the two countries. He posits that while China's hare raced to an unprecedented rapid expansion that elicited worldwide admiration, India's tortoise should not be underestimated. Rather than declaring as the victor the country that is investing the most and growing the fastest, Bahl suggests that superior innovative skills and entrepreneurial savvy shall prevail.

Bahl traces the history that has led to mutual suspicion, ranging from conflicts over disputed lands half a century ago to current threats of nuclear weapons deployment. Bahl also presents a comparative analysis of China's and India's post-Lehman recoveries to become two of the fastest growing economies of the world. He cites impressive trade figures between the countries, averaging more than $60 billion a year to the nearly 1.5 billion people involved in trading. Bahl hypothesizes that the countries are currently locked in an uncomfortable embrace, engaged in a race in which China is on steroids and India is lumbering behind. In his view, however, inherent problems in the Chinese infrastructure may lead India to overtake China. To this end, he asks, "can India fix its governance before China changes its politics?"

As Bahl admits in his preface, he is "not an academician, nor an economist, nor a policymaker," but a "simple editor and entrepreneur." This assertion may explain the weaknesses in his book. While the book is generally well documented and researched, and provides a comprehensive account of the evolving geopolitical issues relating to China and India, its broad sweep often overwhelms the reader, rather than informs. Bahl presents a dizzying array of facts, figures and analogies to the West without a clear thesis or focus. Halfway through the work it becomes repetitive, and the hare and tortoise analogy tiresome and overused.

This work is a good resource to those who are interested in Sino-Indian dynamics and want a general overview on a wide array of topics. Bahl, however, falls short of providing a ground-breaking work that brings new light to current scholarship.

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Author:Ma, Jenny
Publication:Journal of International Affairs
Article Type:Book review
Date:Mar 22, 2011
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