Prof. Yu Zheng recently returned from a research trip to India. (Some of his related papers are here.) He was kind enough to answer a few questions:
Why did you travel to India?
I always wanted to go to India, a country I frequently use for comparison when I study China. I am working on a book project comparing political institutions and foreign direct investment in China, India, and Taiwan. I was struck by numerous studies on India’s political system and economic reforms but did not feel that I have a real understanding of the situation. I needed to interview people in India to get a better understanding of its economic policy, so I decided to arrange this trip.
Did everything work out as planned?
Frankly, I was a bit worried before my departure because most of my interviews were not confirmed, but the results turned out to be much better than I expected. I interviewed various scholars, officials, business developers, and journalists in one week. Since all my interviewees are based in Delhi, it was relatively easy to manage the schedule. I even had time to visit the Taj Mahal, the most recognizable Indian architecture.
What did you learn?
I don’t think one visit could turn me into an India expert, but I have learned tremendously from this trip. For my research, I interviewed a good combination of scholars, officials, and business people and all the meetings were informative and thought-provoking. The exciting part of field work is that there are always lots of uncertainties, and this is particularly true in India. So you have to make yourself be flexible and psychologically prepared for any unexpected situations. To me, interactions with ordinary people (e.g., taxi drivers, hotel host, tour guide, and even an actor) were among the most interesting moments of the trip, through which I got to know different aspects of the Indian society. It is diverse and dynamic. Like China, India is experiencing growing tensions between rich and poor, modernity and tradition, globalization and indigenous culture. All of these tensions could provide many valuable topics to study.