Book Review: Dance of the Elephant, Walk of the Dragon: How India and China Are Reshaping the World in Different Ways by Sandeep Hasurkar 

The book offers a deep dive into the contrasting roles of these two ancient civilizations on the world stage.

This book captures the essence of the journey of two ancient civilizations, their impact on global dynamics, and their remarkably different paths adopted. The detailed comparison between the two nations makes for a compelling narrative.

Hasurkar’s central thesis revolves around the metaphorical ‘elephant dance,’ representing India’s ponderous, vibrant, and dynamic approach, juxtaposed with China’s authoritative and mighty ‘dragon walk’. By juxtaposing these metaphors, the author highlights the distinct characteristics of these global powers.  

The author has adopted a comparative approach and presents various aspects of India and China’s economy, political dynamics, cultural influences, histories, and global impact.  Even the growth trajectories of the agricultural sectors of these two countries make for an interesting comparison. 

Hasurkar sheds light on China’s state-driven economic model. 

“China’s economic success is most visibly associated with the remarkable story of its infrastructure.”

The advent of SEZs, centralized planning, state investment in infrastructure development, cost competitiveness, standardization, and the Belt and Road Initiative are a few measures that helped China chart an upward trajectory. 

The political dynamics of the two countries are another focal point in this narration. Hasurkar compares China’s single-party rule with India’s multi-party democracy. 

Though China’s single-party rule allows for quick decision-making and implementation of long-term policies, it is marred by a lack of political freedoms and human rights issues. While India’s democracy is based on regular elections, greater freedom, and public participation, it is not free from flaws. The author has acknowledged the strengths and weaknesses of each system.

Hasurkar examines the cultural fabric of these two nations. Their rich histories and traditions, and the role they are playing in modern times are greatly discussed. China’s cultural narrative is closely tied to its communist ideology. 

The author sheds light on Confucianism, Mao’s influence on society, Deng’s rise, and its impact on shaping China’s presence, and the deeply flawed one-child policy. 

While China has the second-largest military force in the world, India has strengthened its power through pragmatic diplomacy. Though relations between the two nations are not always cordial, as is evident from history, “it is, however, important to remember that unlike the proverbial hare and the tortoise, China and India are not in a race.”

While Hasurkar’s analysis is thorough, the book occasionally leans towards idealizing the democratic ethos of India while underplaying the significant challenges it faces, such as socio-economic inequalities and political corruption. 

Similarly, while criticizing China’s authoritarianism, it sometimes fails to fully acknowledge the effectiveness and scale of China’s poverty alleviation and economic achievements.

Dance of the Elephant, Walk of the Dragon is a nuanced exploration of how India and China are carving their places in the global order. 

Hasurkar provides a well-researched, insightful narrative that juxtaposes the two nations’ paths, offering readers a comprehensive understanding of their strengths, challenges, and global implications. This book is essential reading for anyone interested in the future of global politics and economics, offering valuable insights into how the world’s two most populous countries are shaping the 21st century.

Rating: 4/5

Review author: Chandra Sundeep is an author, blogger, and book reviewer. Her short stories have been featured in various anthologies, online portals, and literary magazines. In 2023, she received the Bharat Award, recognizing her dedication to impactful storytelling. Additionally, she has been a recipient of esteemed awards such as the Asian Literary Society’s Sagar Memorial Award, Wordsmith Award, and Gitesh-Biva Memorial Award in 2021 and 2022.

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