Ananth Krishnan’s book is a refreshing take on a topic India has grossly underinvested in. It is well known that dealing with its neighbour has been one of the most significant challenges confronting India’s foreign policy-makers; however, a very honest and sincere attempt to understand China from multiple lenses has been elusive. Discourses on China in India have been captive to the ghosts of the 1962 Sino-Indian border dispute. No wonder Indian perceptions about China have been influenced mainly by considerations related to military security. Irrespective of China being perceived as an adversary or a neighbour worth knowing better for India’s national interests, sincere attempts to develop a well-informed understanding have been remarkably absent. Krishnan has made an earnest endeavour to address these concerns. An unbiased understanding of China’s phenomenal rise will be one critical determinant of India’s foreign policy objectives. In other words, how does India deal with the China challenge? Krishnan tries to look at this challenge from multiple perspectives based on his experiences and interactions with scholars, retired diplomats who are well-known China hands, and a cross-section of people in the Mainland and other parts like Greater China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.
There have been very few books authored by an Indian based on personal experiences in the field for a prolonged period on this sensitive topic. Most of the books on China authored by Indians have been written by academics who have been Sinologists or retired diplomats who continue to follow China passionately. There have been two books by Indian journalists who have enjoyed a long stint in China in the recent past. One is Saibal Dasgupta’s Running with the Dragon: How India should do Business with China, and the other is Krishnan’s book. Writing a book on a country in which one has resided for nearly a decade as a foreigner can be a very challenging experience. More so if that country happens to be China. How does one do justice to all the positive experiences one has had during one’s stay while maintaining one’s objectivity to present facts as they are with a sense of emotional detachment? Krishnan presents the numerous facets of India’s China challenge without distorting facts and compromising objectivity and offers a balanced perspective on the myriad issues of India-China ties, grappling with sensitive topics like the Sino-Indian boundary dispute, the Tibet question, and the China-Pakistan nexus.