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A pat on our backs

Book>> The Elephant and The Dragon by Robyn Meredith WW Norton and Company Rs 995

 
By Ikram Ahmed Khan
Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

 

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The Nobel Prize winning economist Amartya Sen once wrote, "Whatever you say about India, the opposite holds true as well." I guess the same is true for China too. Anyone interested in the marvel of modern-day China and India comes across a host of factoids that illustrate each country's high-octane growth. Shanghai, for example, had 15 skyscrapers in 1978; by last year it had about 4,000 more than Los Angeles and Chicago combined. India, meanwhile, is home to three of the world's 10 biggest information-technology firms.

But it's just as easy to uncover bad news. Sixteen of the world's 20 most polluted cities are in China. Seventy per cent of of its publicly traded companies are worthless and its banking system is carrying close to US $1 trillion in bad loans. India routinely gets bad press for its poverty.

So what is it about the two countries that draws journalists and scholars to write comparative volumes? Perhaps its the glaring contradictions.

Robyn Meredith who covers these countries for Forbes finds animals pulling carts loaded with construction materials, and monkeys racing across roads, dodging Toyotas and Ikons. In China where men in Mao jackets pedal bicycles along newly built highways, past skyscrapers sprouting like bamboo.

All this is old hat, at least to people in India and China. The Elephant and The Dragon is a nice little pat on our backs in recession times. It's nice to be told we are doing well.

Ikram Ahmed Khan is a chartered accountant in Delhi

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