Indian Decade

India: Apples, China: Oranges

Comparing the two countries may be without meaning. But the tendency is likely to stay.

Many readers of this blog have made the point that any comparison of India and China is without meaning—much like comparing apples to oranges. Lately, however, nearly every discussion close to the topic seems to view both countries through a comparative prism.

Take, for example, a recent high-profile book in India, Superpower, written by Raghav Bahl, the founder and editor of Network 18, one of the country’s largest television news and business networks and home to the Indian versions of CNN and CNBC. Superpower calls the interaction between the two Asian nations ‘the amazing race between China’s hare and India’s tortoise.’ And thanks to his media might, Bahl has managed to muster up a lot of publicity for his book, including several featured discussions on his popular network shows on how the two countries stack up. In the book’s introduction, Bahl says, ‘Between India and China, the odds are 50-50. It’s an amazing race between China’s hare and India’s tortoise—one that China need not automatically win, and India should not believe it is bound to lose.’

This is a sentiment senior journalist Tavleen Singh might not agree with right now. Back from a recent trip to China, Singh, in her weekly column last week, wrote that she was ‘stunned’ and in ‘speechless wonder’ at the incredible strides China has made. In fact, every single person I meet who has recently been to China comes back with similar awe. Always the discussion leads to why we in India can’t do the same.

It might be an apples-and-oranges comparison but it’s one unlikely to go away.