Posted by: Frederik Balfour on February 12, 2009
Eye on Asia bloggers are pilloried regularly by our readers for raising the China vs. India debate. Some of our more virulent critics have accused us of being a part of a Western conspiracy to divide and conquer Asia’s two emerging giants. The term “Chindia” [which was also the title of a book edited by my colleague Pete Engardio containing BusinessWeek magazine contributions by several of us here at Eye on Asia] has continued gaining currency, both within Asia and beyond. The term is nothing more than a short hand, an artificial construct on which to base a discussion. For example check out this blog by my colleague Bruce Einhorn.
However the topic of the India-China rivalry is not an obsession shared solely by BusinessWeek writers. For an interesting take on Chindia, check out this excellent blog by Shashi Tharoor on the Huffington Post. Entitled “Olympic Proof: India is not China” he writes: “What’s happened at the Olympics speaks to a basic difference in the two countries’ systems. It’s the creative chaos of all-singing, all-dancing Bollywood versus the perfectly-choreographed precision of the Beijing Opening Ceremony,” he writes. Apt metaphor. And he also discusses the yawning difference between infrastructure one finds in the two countries, an extremely relevant consideration for anyone thinking of doing business in either place. “If China wants to build a new six-lane expressway, it can bulldoze its way past any number of villages in its path; in India, if you want to widen a two-lane road, you could be tied up in court for a dozen years over compensation entitlements.” Of course,China has huge problems with human rights, environmental degradation and corruption when it comes to industrialization and land-use, but there’s no denying that when there’s a project to be built, the government gets the job done. For more on this discussion see my blog on Tata Motor’s thwarted attempts to build a factory in West Bengal last year.
Born in London, and educated in India and the United States, Tharoor has penned three novels and five works of non-fiction, worked for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and is a regular contributor to both international and Indian publications, according to his website. Write on, Mr. Tharoor.