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Talent and Meritocracy in China and India

November 2018

The Idea of Meritocracy

Scholars around the world have long struggled over the definition of merit, whether it is inherited or can be cultivated, whether it includes both talent and virtue, and so on. What is the relationship between the idea of merit – its conceptualization, measurement, and implementation – and the organization of talent in China and India, and on the ways power and influence are allocated in these two countries?  This session examines the philosophical and historical evolution of the concept of merit, and how it operates in India and China today.
Presented and Discussed By: 
Daniel BellDean of the School of Political Science and Public Administration, Shandong University; Professor, Tsinghua University
Ashok KanthaDirector, Institute of Chinese Studies, Delhi; former Indian Ambassador to China
Amman MadanProfessor, School of Education, Azim Premji University, Bangalore
Pratap Bhanu MehtaVice-Chancellor, Ashoka University


Data and Big Data in Meritocracy

One major consequence of the limitations of the Chinese and Indian educational systems is a potential colossal waste of talent. Ability and effort take different forms; some are measurable and others less so. Big data has been used to illustrate the degree to which meritocracy, in the sense of educational opportunity open to all, has been operationalized at different phases in Chinese history.  This raises questions of whether merit can be quantitatively analyzed in countries as diverse and population heavy as India and China? Can data be harnessed not just retrospectively but prospectively, to better nurture talent and merit, with potential positive consequences for social and economic stability?
Presented and Discussed By:
James LeeDean of Humanities and Social Science, Chair Professor of History and Sociology, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology 
Liang ChenAssociate Professor, Nanjing University 
Varun AgarwalCEO, Aspiring Minds
Pramod Bhasin, Chairman, The Skill Academy and Founder, Genpact

The Myth of Meritocracy

There are millions of people in China and India whose educational, social, economic and political potential is restricted by both historical systems of discrimination and the inadvertent result of more recent, well-intentioned policies with deleterious side-effects. To whose benefit and whose detriment is a system of meritocracy? This session examines the discourse of merit in highly stratified societies, and whether a meritocracy is even achievable in a society entrenched in deep inequalities. 
Presented and Discussed By:
Ashwini DeshpandeProfessor, Department of Economics, Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi 
Zachary HowlettAssistant Professor of Anthropology, Yale; NUS College, Singapore
Sreemati ChakrabartiProfessor of Chinese Studies and Head of Department of East Asian Studies, University of Delhi
Satish DeshpandeProfessor of Sociology, Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi 
Surinder Singh JodhkaProfessor, Centre for the Study of Social Systems, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi

The Future of Policy

Two large, populous, Asian countries, with long civilizational histories, emerging out of more than a century of encounters with imperialism, entered the world polity as contemporaneous nation states, yet have evolved in radically different directions.  Therefore, their comparison can afford public policy much insight about the issue of how talent is nurtured and used in societies. What is the future of merit and affirmative-action related policy in India and China? This session look into how effective use of talent and good policies are critical to the advancement and growth of these two nations.
Presented, Moderated, and Discussed by: 
Bernard YeungDean and Stephen Riady Distinguished Professor in Finance and Strategic Management, National University of Singapore (NUS) Business School
M. R MadhavanPresident and co-founder of PRS Legislative Research, New Delhi
Tarun KhannaJorge Paulo Lemann Professor, Harvard Business School and Director, The Lakshmi Mittal and Family South Asia Institute, Harvard University 
Alka AcharyaProfessor of Chinese Studies, Centre for East Asian Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University 
Niraja Gopal JayalProfessor, Centre for the Study of Law and Governance, Jawaharlal Nehru University
Shiv Shankar MenonIndian diplomat; ex-national security adviser to former prime minister
Ambuj SagarVipula and Mahesh Chaturvedi Professor of Policy Studies, Indian Institute of Technology Delhi