Written by Robyn Meredith and published in 2008 by W.W. Norton & Company, ‘The Elephant and the Dragon: The Rise of India and China and What It Means for All of Us’ is an examination of how India and China transformed themselves over the past few decades into the ‘World’s Back Office’ and the ‘World’s Factory’ respectively. Over the course of 252 pages Meredith explores some of the historic formative influences for both nations, but focuses predominantly on the events of the past 20 years. Her analysis makes generous use of relevant statistics and personal anecdotes from her years as a foreign correspondent, currently for Forbes magazine (residing in Hong Kong) and previously for the New York Times. Over the course of 9 chapters she ranges far and wide examining the influences and current state of many aspects of India, China and their place in the world economy. Her narrative covers the boom, the gloom and the doom; discussing high growth rates and improved standards of living, how certain elements of both societies are being left behind and the environmental, cultural & social impact of the changes. She culminates with an analysis of how the US needs to adapt to the rise of India and China in order to retain a leading role in world economics. Discussion below covers a synopsis of the content of the book, an evaluation of Meredith’s assumptions and conclusions and my own analysis and inferences based on the book’s content, independent research and learning’s in Global Project Management.
Meredith sets the stage for discussing the rise of India and China by covering some of the history of the two nations in the post-World War II world. In order to allow the reader to grasp how fully each of the nations has transformed itself she describes the impact of the political leadership of the era. In India, a post-British rule experiment with socialism and central planning resulted in what became known, mockingly, as "the Hindu rate of growth.” Although Jawaharlal Nehru’s goal for the Indian economy was self-sufficiency, the restrictions of an internal, domestic-only model served only to encourage corruption and slow growth rather than drive an economic expansion and improve the standard of living. In China, 30 million to 40 million people died between 1959 and 1962 due largely to collectivization of farming and centralized agricultural policies instituted by Mao Zedong. Additionally, nearly all of the country's universities were closed for over a decade during his Communist Revolution. Rather than a worker’s or peasant’s paradise a culture of subsistence living and recursive corruption was created. From these difficult and challenging beginnings India and China are now determined to reach the same goal of becoming influential world superpowers, but each has charted a different course to reach that goal. The death of Mao Zedong, a student revolution, and the silent rebellion of a few country farmers who engaged in capitalistic practices to avoid starvation and provide for their families were the seeds of change in China. Under Deng Xiaoping and his successors, a communist-leaning, capitalism-practicing China has used its authoritarian political system to bring about massive investment in civil infrastructure, special economic development zones, introduction of huge amounts of foreign investment and double digit growth levels all spawning a burgeoning middle class. After several decades of educating doctors, scientists, engineers and researchers in its Universities, India began achieving positive economic changes accompanied by slow but steady economic reforms. Additionally, decades of British rule provided a linguistic advantage and investments in fiber optic infrastructure and internet connectivity have fueled growth in India tied to the ability of these professionals to provide services worldwide while never leaving home. With their transformations well