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Pitfalls of Chinese Modernization

Srikanth Kondapalli

Edited by Prem Shankar Jha
Sage Publications, Delhi, 2009, pp. x+186, Rs. 495.00


China became the third largest economy in the world after the United States and Japan with an estimated $4.8 trillion in gross domestic product in 2009. With near nine per cent growth rate projected in the financial meltdown year of 2009, China still leads the world in growth rates, although it would need several decades to actually reach what the Chinese Communist Party calls an ushering in of a ‘well-off society’. That is a reasonable economic performance although there are enough doubting Thomas’s, including the World Bank, Thomas Rawsky, Angus Maddison or Carsten Holz. There are others, like Gordon Chang who predicts the impending collapse of China due to bad state-controlled bank debts, weak financial system or growing popular unrest. Such a complex issue has been simplified by Prem Shankar Jha in this book. The script is tight with clear-headed analyses, cogently argued and detailed, while bringing forth the author’s decades-long experience in journalism and policy-making in the economic field. What distinguishes Jha’s approach compared with other liberal economists and political scientists is his middle course approach, flair for detail and lessons to be drawn by India. In the recent literature, it is fashionable to compare the dragon and the elephant. In 2004 Goldman Sachs published the BRICs report arguing that India is likely to surpass China’s growth rates in 2013. On the face of it, this is a herculean task for India as China had become the manufacturing hub of the world, with more investment flows into China than into India. However, as Huang Yasheng and Tarun Khanna had argued that India scores over China in several areas, including the former’s nurturing of a private sector along with that of the public sector, while in China, socialist projects debilitated private entrepreneurship in the first half of the People’s Republic. Jha, however, suggests ‘such comparisons serve little purpose’ as these countries’ growth trajectories are on ‘divergent tracks’ (p. 6). Of course, Jha also steers clear of the current obsession in India of ‘learning from China’. Lately, even the Indian government had reportedly issued circulars on emulating Chinese reforms, without critically evaluating the Chinese experience and Indian reality. There is also Mumbai aspiring to become Shanghai. In the backdrop of the controversy related to special economic zones in Nandigram, Singur and Goa, Jha points out that the Chinese President Hu Jintao had shut down more than half of the 7,000 such zones ...

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