【英语中国】书评:印度相对中国优势何在?

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所属分类:双语中国

2013-11-29 08:39

小艾摘要: India’s parliamentary elections next year, like each of its predecessors, will be the biggest in history. They are also set to be among its most engrossing.Mostly this is down to personality, given t ...
India’s parliamentary elections next year, like each of its predecessors, will be the biggest in history. They are also set to be among its most engrossing.

Mostly this is down to personality, given the rowdy contest between Narendra Modi, the prime ministerial candidate of the opposition Bharatiya Janata party; and Rahul Gandhi, scion of the ruling Congress party’s family dynasty. But the battle also offers an ideological choice: the former’s centre-right agenda of better governance and economic reform against the latter’s focus on social welfare.

Yet, as a true contest of ideas, or a deeper debate about the type of country India wants to become, the poll will inevitably fall short, lost amid the hullabaloo of campaigning in a nation of 1.2bn. It is against this backdrop that a book such as Reimagining India is to be welcomed.

This collection of about 60 essays brought together by the McKinsey consultancy probes the country’s anxieties about its uneven progress on the path to becoming “Asia’s next superpower”. As the foreword notes: “India is reclaiming its historical prominence in the world economy. It has congratulated itself for ‘rising’ and ‘shining’ – but is doing so as quickly or as brightly as it should?”

The answers are provided by an impressive array of authors; mostly corporate leaders, academics and journalists, but also a classical dancer, a restaurateur and a chess grand-master. (Edward Luce and Victor Mallet of the Financial Times also contribute chapters.)

The line-up of business luminaries is especially eye-catching, featuring a clutch of Indian billionaire tycoons, such as Mukesh Ambani and Sunil Mittal, alongside foreigners such as Bill Gates. Sadly these contributions are often the least interesting, mostly because their authors strike a genial and upbeat tone, revealing little of their frustrations over India’s commercial climate or political leadership.

More diverting are those chapters that put India’s contemporary development into historical perspective. The country is often portrayed as chaotically governed; but, as academic Ashutosh Varshney notes, it is now vastly more stable than in the decades following independence in 1947 – not least because of the fading “existential threat” that its huge regional and ethnic diversity could wrench it apart.

Most satisfying of all are the authors who are willing to criticise decisions that have caused India’s economy to stall in recent years, a period economist Ruchir Sharma describes as a grand missed opportunity, characterised by fiscal indiscipline, “top-heavy central government” and endemic corruption.

A more lyrical example comes via novelist Manu Joseph, who chides India’s prosperous classes for blaming their country’s imperfections on “the rogues whom India’s poor have elected leaders”, and often on the less privileged themselves. “India’s middle classes have contracted a fever,” he says, which is “fanning one quest after another: an arsenal of nuclear weapons, extravagant space missions?.?.?.?[and] the clamour for election of a ruthless Hindu chauvinist”. That oblique reference to Mr Modi is a rare mention of politics in a collection whose most obvious limitation is its unwillingness to wade into the more inflammatory topics of governance and political leadership.

Its other weakness is that these essays do not quite add up to a coherent analysis of India’s future, which may leave some readers frustrated – even though anyone with an interest in the country will find much to satisfy their curiosity in the volume.

For all that, it is worth noting that discussions about India’s future direction at least happen in the open, be that in elections, or, in a more limited sense, books of this type, which often also feature a degree of self-examination from the country’s business elite.

The contrast with China is clear, where the recent Communist party plenum in Beijing was billed as a pivotal forum for charting the direction of Asia’s largest economy, but whose proceedings took place entirely out of public view.

This broader point is made, in one of the book’s most compelling essays. Yasheng Huang, a Chinese-born academic at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, attacks the notion popular among Mumbai and New Delhi elites that India’s faults are unavoidable consequences of its democracy, providing autocratic China with an insurmountable competitive advantage. “We should not seize on the authoritarian edge theory in the absence of empirical evidence,” Mr Huang writes, arguing persuasively that this evidence is much weaker than often assumed. “It is far more likely that China will move closer to the political system represented by India than the other way round.”

The writer is the FT’s Mumbai correspondent

Reimagining India: Unlocking the Potential of Asia’s Next Superpower

Edited by McKinsey & Company

(Simon & Schuster, $29.95)

印度国会明年的选举将像之前的历次选举一样,成为史上规模最大的选举。此外,它还将成为印度最引人瞩目的选举之一。

考虑到反对党印度人民党(BJP)总理候选人纳伦德拉?莫迪(Narendra Modi)与执政党国大党(Congress party)家族王朝后裔拉胡尔?甘地(Rahul Gandhi)之间的激烈角逐,这场选举将主要是一场个人感召力之争。不过,这场争夺也向选民提供了一个意识形态选择:是选择前者改善治理、实施经济改革的中右翼议程,还是选择后者关注社会福利的议程。

不过,尽管这场选举是一场不同理念间的真正交锋、或是关于印度发展愿景的深层次辩论,但它肯定难以达到人们所希望的效果,只会被一个人口达12亿的国家的选战喧嚣声所淹没。正是在这一背景下,类似《重新想象印度》(Reimagining India)这样的书应该受到人们的欢迎。

这部由咨询公司麦肯锡(McKinsey)汇编的、包含约60篇文章的文集,深入探讨了印度对自身不能一帆风顺地发展为“亚洲下一个超级大国”的忧虑。正如该书前言所说:“印度正在恢复历史上其在世界经济中的重要地位。它为自身的‘崛起’和‘闪光’而得意——但这一崛起是否足够迅速、这一闪光是否足够耀眼呢?”

该书的作者给出了答案。这些作者是一系列了不起的人物,主要是企业领袖、学者和记者,但也包括一位古典舞演员、一位餐馆老板和一位国际象棋特技大师。(《金融时报》的爱德华?卢斯(Edward Luce)和维克托?马利特(Victor Mallet)亦贡献了几个章节。)

尤其吸引眼球的是一连串商界翘楚,包括穆克什?安巴尼(Mukesh Ambani)和苏尼尔?米塔尔(Sunil Mittal)等印度亿万富豪,还有像比尔?盖茨(Bill Gates)这样的外国商界巨头。遗憾的是,这些人贡献的文章往往是最不吸引人的,主要是因为他们文章的基调温和、乐观,很少流露出他们对印度商业环境或政治领导的不满。

让人更感兴趣的是从历史角度审视印度当代发展的那几章内容。印度往往被描绘成一个治理相当混乱的国家,但就像学者阿舒托什?瓦什尼(Ashutosh Varshney)指出的那样,今天的印度远比1947年独立后的那几十年稳定,其中一个不容忽视的原因是,印度面临的“生存威胁”(指该国存在的巨大地区和民族差异可能导致国家四分五裂)正在消退。

最令人满意的则是主动批评印度经济决策的作者,正是这些决策导致印度经济近些年来陷于停滞——经济学家鲁奇尔?夏尔马(Ruchir Sharma)称这段时期是印度错过的一个大好机会,其间印度财政纪律涣散、“中央政府高官过剩”、全国腐败丛生。

言辞更为奔放的文章来自于小说家马努?约瑟夫(Manu Joseph)。他批评了印度的富裕阶层,称这些人把国家的种种不足归咎于“印度穷人选了一帮无赖作领导人”,还常常归咎于他们自己享有的特权不够多。“印度中产阶级脑子发烧了,”约瑟夫说,这股狂热“煽动他们提出一个又一个诉求:建立核武库,执行耗资巨大的太空任务……(并且)极力要求选举一位冷酷无情的印度教沙文主义者作领导人”这处影射莫迪的文字是书中为数不多的提及政治的地方。该书最明显的局限在于,不愿涉足关于国家治理和政治领导的更具煽动性的话题。

该书的另一个缺点在于,收录的文章整体上没有就印度的未来给出一个富有条理的分析。这可能会让部分读者感到失望,尽管任何对印度感兴趣的人肯定都会从该书中找到不少满足自己好奇心的内容。

但值得注意的是,不管是在选举中,还是在更小的范围内(例如在此类书中),人们对印度未来走向的讨论至少都是公开的。这些讨论还往往包含该国商界精英一定程度的自省。

这与中国形成鲜明对比。近期在北京举行的中共十八届三中全会,被宣扬为决定亚洲最大经济体发展方向的一次关键会议,但公众完全看不到会议的过程。

这一涉及中国的观点出现在该书一篇极具说服力的文章中,作者是麻省理工学院(MIT)学者黄亚生。生于中国的黄亚生批评了在孟买和新德里的精英阶层中盛行的一种观点,即印度的种种不足是其民主制带来的必然结果,专制的中国由此对印度形成了一个不可逾越的竞争优势。“在缺乏实证的情况下,我们不应接受‘威权体制占优’理论。”黄亚生写道。他令人信服的辩称,这方面的证据比人们通常认为的要薄弱得多。“中国走向印度所代表的政治体制的可能性,要比反过来走的可能性大得多。”

本文作者是《金融时报》驻孟买记者

《重新想象印度:释放亚洲下个超级大国的潜力》(Reimagining India: Unlocking the Potential of Asia’s Next Superpower),麦肯锡公司(McKinsey & Company)编著,(西蒙与舒斯特公司(Simon & Schuster)出版,售价29.95美元)

译者/沈希

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