May 31, 2007


Real India: the slow road to Agra (Tom Plate, 5/31/07, Seattle Times)

If you want to understand as much as possible about India in a single day, maybe the best way to go is to take the slow bus to Agra. And by slow, I mean slow as in the speed of a backlash of taffy.

There are no fast buses to Agra because the road to Agra more resembles a war zone in which countless people seem to be fleeing somewhere for their life. Someday the new highway will be up and running, but who knows how long that will take? It sometimes seems as if India goes out of its way to be inefficient.

Most people go to Agra to get to the justly famed and fabulous Taj Mahal. From New Delhi, that's about a four-hour trip. The journey itself is worth at least as much as the destination. India itself is too great to rush through, even if that were remotely possible.

India is often touted as the next slam-dunk superpower, after emerging China, and of course, established United States. The big buildup mainly comes from the Western media, especially in the U.S. Both the Clinton and Bush administrations have imagined India as a kind of balancing superpower to China, should the latter get too feisty, aggressive or in any way profoundly obstreperous to U.S interests.

With more than a billion people (half of which are under the age of 25) and a tremendous science and technology base (the legacy of its first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru), India might not be a bad bet to make it. But it has a long way to go, perhaps much longer than Western hype or India's own best hopes would suggest.

Travel the road to Agra and you see what's out there in the real world of ancient India. You leave the fancy hotels and well-kept tourist sites in the nation's capital and discover reality.

The most basic reality is that its billion people have a per capita GDP of less than $4k. It's no more likely to ever be a superpower than China is, but its tilt towards the Anglosphere in both its national security politics and its economics suggests that it can have a reasonably good run as it boosts that GDP and it is certainly a nice counterweight to the Communists and Islamists its sandwiched between..

Calm down, the rise of China's power is being exaggerated: Beijing's Leninist corporatism hobbles the nation's economic development (Will Hutton, June 01, 2007, The Australian)

THE China challenge is a mutual collusion of misunderstanding between East and West. China ardently wants the world's respect. And the West's political and business elites want to pin the blame for every ill, from job insecurity to the inability to finance a generous welfare state, on the unstoppable rise of China, so excusing themselves for any responsibility for Western capitalism's travails.

Neither side has an interest in portraying China for what it is: a profoundly dysfunctional economy and society struggling to make the transition from communism to a form of capitalism that will almost certainly lead to political and economic upheavals.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 31, 2007 11:54 AM
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