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Thomas L. Friedman

Despite China's rapid economic growth over the last few years, India could still race ahead because it has already passed the "speed bump" of Democratic reforms, said Thomas. L. Friedman, three time Pulitzer Prize winner and foreign affairs columnist for The New York Times.

Mr. Friedman addressing to IIJNM students and journalist"China is going at 80 miles an hour, with a speed bump in the road. When 1.3 billion people go at 80 miles per hour with speed bumps, that is real interesting," Friedman said in a talk with journalists and students at the Indian Institute for Journalism & New Media on Thursday, 26 February 2004.

In Bangalore to work on a documentary on the controversial issue of outsourcing, funded by New York Times in collaboration with the Discovery channel, Friedman said, "India and China are like the tortoise and the hare", a reference to the Aesop's fable with the moral that slow and steady beats fast but unreliable.

"India is the tortoise and it has gone slow because it has a real messy, noisy and occasionally violent democracy," Friedman said. But India has an advantage because it has gone through democratic transition, which China must someday face. India is in position to exploit the huge and growing Chinese market, he said. "Having a democracy and being over that bump is a big advantage," he said. " If India was stock, I would buy it."

IIJNM Dean Dr. Abraham George interviewed by Mr. FriedmanWhile in Bangalore, Friedman has written two columns on the controversial outsourcing issue. The first, titled "Meet the Zippies," ran in Sunday's Times and the second "What Goes Around Comes Around," ran Thursday. The columns makes the general point that outsourcing, though controversial in both the United States and India, will benefit both developing and developed countries in the long run.

"Outsourcing is a win-win situation," Friedman said. Although the United States and other developed countries lose jobs to India and other nations through outsourcing, the increased prosperity it brings to the lesser-developed countries increases their worth as markets.

He added that there is a real division between the Indian readers and American readers on outsourcing and it is challenging as a columnist to write about it. But he said that if he were an Indian, he would be covering the issue in the same way he would cover it as an American. The only difference, he said, is that American jobs are being outsourced to India so he has to answer to the American readers.

"Americans tell me that it is very easy for you to advocate outsourcing because your job cannot be outsourced," he said.

Friedman, standing at a lectern, opened his laptop and read the audience parts of his column "What Goes Around Comes Around" in answer to a question about outsourcing. He wrote an account of his visit to a Bangalore call center named 24/7, staffed with hundreds of outsourced Indian workers, he saw rooms full of computers from Compaq, running software from Microsoft, operated by workers drinking bottles of water from Coke. U.S. investors own Ninety per cent of the stock in 24/7, he said.

"Although U.S has lost some surface jobs to India, it is for this reason that total export from U.S. to India has grown manifold. So what goes around comes around and also benefits America." Friedman said.

On being asked why many in the United States are resisting outsourcing if it is a win-win situation, Friedman said, "People who are hurt by trade know who they are and people who are benefiting don't." Those who lose jobs to outsourcing mobilize politically, he said.

"People who benefit by trade tend not to be mobilized," he said.

Student of Indian Institute of Journalism & New Media
Courtesy The Hindu


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