China and India are the two biggest nations on earth, with a combined population of more than 2.7 billion people. They are also two of the least well-understood countries outside of Asia. 

Given their growing economic clout -- China is the second largest economy in the world, India the sixth largest --and their growing global influence, anyone who follows geopolitical events and economic trends should invest more time in understanding these important markets.

While there are hundreds of books you can choose from, I've selected just two that I've read recently: One on India and one on China. These books don't pretend to be comprehensive. They do, however, offer a deeper look into important aspects of the modern history and economics of these powerful nations.

The Billionaire Raj: A Journey Through India's New Gilded Age, James Crabtree

James Crabtree is the former Mumbai bureau chief for The Financial Times and the author of The Billionaire Raj: A Journey Through India's New Gilded Age. The Billionaire Raj charts the emergence of the new billionaire class behind India's rapid economic rise. In this eloquently written page-turner, James combines on-the-ground reporting, rigorous economic research, and vivid storytelling as he brings to life the fascinating yet not very widely-known tale behind the world's second most populous nation.

The book is organized around three critical elements in India's recent history, starting with the rise of the super-rich and the associated problems they bring of inequality. The rise of the super-rich ties into a second issue he covers in the book: "crony capitalism, meaning collusion between political and business elites to capture valuable public resources for themselves." And, in the third part, Crabtree discusses the boom and bust cycle of India's industrial economy, which came as a consequence of the first two trends he describes.

Like America in the nineteenth century, India, predicts Crabtree, is set to grow in economic might and political power for the remainder of the twenty-first century. "Today, India's $2.3 trillion economy is slightly smaller than Britain's. Barring something unforeseen it will surpass America in size by mid-century, and then, perhaps, China too."

The Billionaire Raj has received several prestigious awards, including being named recently by Amazon as one of the 100 best books of 2018.

AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order, Kai-Fu Lee

In his new book, venture capitalist and artificial intelligence expert Kai-Fu Lee explains how AI will impact jobs and puts forth a compelling case for why China is emerging as a leader in AI.

Lee has worked in both Silicon Valley and China for some of the biggest names in technology including Google and Apple, so he has seen firsthand how each technology ecosystem operates. He argues there's a shift underway in global leadership in AI from the US to China, which is the product of two transitions: "From the age of discovery to the age of implementation, and from the age of expertise to the age of data."

His conclusion? Whoever has the data will win, and China has a lot of data: "China has already surpassed the United States in terms of sheer volume as the number one producer of data. That data is not just impressive in quantity, but thanks to China's unique technology ecosystem--an alternate universe of products and functions not seen anywhere else--that data is tailor-made for building profitable AI companies."

If, as Lee estimates, up to to 40 to 50 percent of all jobs in the US could be automated within the next fifteen years, thriving in this new age of AI will "require substantial changes to our economy but also a shift in culture and values."

"I firmly believe we must forge a new synergy between artificial intelligence and the human heart, and look for ways to use the forthcoming material abundance generated by artificial intelligence to foster love and compassion in our societies."

Published on: Nov 30, 2018
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