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The Dragon and the Elephant

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The Dragon and the Elephant

China, India and the New World Order

Profile Books,

15 min read
10 take-aways
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What's inside?

Concise, layman’s introduction to the economic history of India and China.

Editorial Rating



  • Innovative
  • Background
  • For Beginners


If you read only one book about the global economic role of India and China, this should be it. David Smith does an excellent job of sketching the economic history of these countries, analyzing the obstacles and impediments they subjected themselves to for most of the 20th century, explaining how they broke the socialist yoke and assessing their prospects for the future. The prose is generally clear and free of jargon. Smith presents ample documentation and footnotes. His treatment of political and economic figures is for the most part well balanced. This is very much a layman’s introduction to the economic emergence of India and China, but getAbstract finds that, unlike many recent books about the two nations, this one is intellectually respectable.


Roots of India and China

The economies of India and China are so ancient that it is hard to trace their origins. Even in 9000 B.C.E., there were potters in China, and by 7000 B.C.E. there were farmers. The Indus Valley hosted a sophisticated civilization as early as 3000 B.C.E.

The riches of the Indies were fabulous during the European Dark Ages. So, too, was the opulence of China. Yet this wealth did not provide a stable foundation for further development and progress. Both civilizations stagnated. India may have made wondrous discoveries in astronomy and mathematics, but these discoveries were of negligible practical value. Extremes of riches and penury characterized the population, and no leaders seem to have had real incentives or abilities to change that situation. So, India stood still while the rest of the world passed it by. Something similar seems to have occurred in China. Although China made a great early start by inventing such technologies as gunpowder and water clocks, it did not carry those innovations forward and develop them. Adam Smith remarked in The Wealth of Nations that, although China was among the “most fertile, best cultivated...

About the Author

David Smith has been the economics editor of the Sunday Times since 1989. He also writes a monthly column for Professional Investor, British Industry and The Manufacturer.

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