Over the course of the next decade, one million Indians are predicted to turn eighteen each month and India will be the youngest nation on earth by2020. These young people are making new demands on their government such as greater job creation, improved teacher quality, and better air quality in cities. Are Indian leaders prepared to respond to these calls? On this week’s Asia Unbound podcast, Somini Sengupta, the United Nations bureau chief for the New York Times and author of The End of Karma: Hope and Fury Among India’s Young, presents the stories of seven young Indians, who came of of age following economic liberalization in 1991. Sengupta depicts a generation brimming with aspiration and eager to move beyond the constraints of their past, such as caste and family background. The stories include those of Anupam, a boy from one of India’s poorest provinces who dreams of attending one of the prestigious Indian Institutes of Technology, and Varsha, who defies her father’s wishes in attempting to become a policewoman. Listen below to hear more about Sengupta’s take on India’s “most transformative generation.”
On this week’s Asia Unbound podcast, Alec Ash, author of Wish Lanterns: Young Lives in New China, gives of glimpse of today’s China through the varied stories of its young adults. Ash beautifully profiles six of his Chinese peers born in the late 1980s and 90s—such as Fred, the patriotic daughter of an official, and Lucifer, an aspiring superstar—who are only children with no memories of Mao or Tiananmen. Ash describes a generation with lofty ambitions and the energy and confidence to shape their own destinies. Yet at the same time he finds their lives are also constrained by a kind of powerlessness. Their lives are circumscribed by what Ash calls China’s “brick wall”: the reality that they can only change their own futures as much as the system around them will allow. Though his subjects are not activists, they are not all apathetic; some remain deeply patriotic even as they are critical of the Chinese state, hoping for greater accountability and rule of law. Listen below to hear more about the lives of Ash’s characters, and find out why Chinese youths today are not simply optimistic, but feel entitled to a better future than any generation before them. At the end of the day, Ash’s subjects are just like any other twenty-year-olds, venturing forth into an uncertain world to realize and discover who they really are.
On this week’s Asia Unbound podcast, Anja Manuel, cofounder and partner at RiceHadleyGates and author of This Brave New World: India, China and the United States, offers her prescription for how the United States can understand and engage with Asia’s two largest rising powers. Manuel compares and contrasts Indian and Chinese history, leaders, and trajectories, ultimately arriving at a pair of distinct national ambitions: China aims to regain its long-lost place on center stage, and India wishes to re-engage with the world after being relatively isolated since independence.She is sanguine about troubling headlines, such as China’s faltering economy and India’s violent outbursts of Hindu nationalism, which she believes will not hold the two countries back from achieving their greater goals, but acknowledges continuing challenges in both countries’ relations with the outside world, such as unfair business practices or Chinese cyber policies. For Manuel’s recommendations as to what role the United States should play, listen to our conversation below. By her assessment, we are on the right track by bolstering ties with India and—especially in the face of occasional adversity—continuing to seek areas of cooperation with China.