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Asian Drama

Swaran Singh

By Vishnu Saraf
Macmillan, New Delhi, 2008, pp. 157, Rs. 385.00


Beginning from the year 2000, a year that marked the 50th anniversary of the setting up of diplomatic relations between India and China, the recent rise of China and India has witnessed a proliferation of literature on these two large and fastest growing economies of Asia. Given the newsworthiness as also the inevitable news-like tenor of these studies, the bulk of them, at best, only update existing information.   The focus of these largely comparitive studies invariably remains on populist indices like gross domestic product (GDP), foreign trade (FT), foreign direct investment (FDI), foreign exchange reserves (forex), or the number of billionaires, with only few studies making an effort to go beyond these simplistic measurements. The value addition of these studies is viewed often in terms of selection of sources and in configuration of contents and themes for discussion as also the rank, training or experience of their authors. The exceptions to this rule, i.e., books on comparison with insights, can be counted on one’s fingers.   At its face value, therefore, the book under review by Vishnu Saraf appears to be making another such comparison though reading it makes one see that it charts its own course in highlighting at least some of those less debated nuances and subtleties of the aforesaid populist parameters. It refreshingly brings in several such sharp arguments and also uses several new and recent resource materials to further strengthen some of these well-known home-truths of India-China comparisons. Its method to explain several complicated formulations in an extremely simple manner seems to stand out as its major strength. Especially, its language is lucid and keeps the reader glued and, its use of inbox highlights, crispy sub-titles, popular quotations, episodes, and pictorials make this book fun and less taxing a read for the general reader. But it also sufficiently engages an expert and definitely makes a far more serious read than a coffee-table book or even a manager’s manual though it carries some of the reader-friendly salience of that flavour.   To the credit of the author, this book reflects an extensive survey of most of recent publications and use of most recent financial and policy research institutions’ assessments that remain its forte. This makes it especially of use to policy-making and business communities seeking short and readymade answers to their questions. On the issue of FDI, for instance, apart from presenting the usual statistics, it highlights ...

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