India emerges from the latest World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report as the sickest member of the BRICs. It is ranked a lackluster 71st among 144 countries surveyed, down 11 places from last year and 22 places from five years ago. Moreover, it is ranked the lowest among its peers for the first time in years (China comes in 28th, Russia 53th, Brazil 57th).

The consequences of India’s lower GDP growth are also increasingly obvious: whereas India’s GDP per capita was higher than China’s only 15 years ago, it now stands at only a quarter of that of its Eastern neighbor.

So how come this all happened, and what can be done about it? 

“When eating an elephant, take one bite at a time”, US Army officer and Vietnam veteran Creighton Abrams once said.

In his new book, The Rise of the New East, Ben Simpfendorfer does just that. His elephant is “The East”, the group of almost 50 emerging markets ranging from Turkey to China that is home to well over half of the world population.

Simpfendorfer gives his topic a thorough treatment. While his insights seem logical and intuitive, taken together they give an impressive oversight of into key trends shaping the region. beyondbrics noted five insights that particularly stood out. 

For Chinese, Africa is the new El Dorado. An estimated 1m Chinese have moved to Africa in the last two decades in pursuit of a more prosperous life. They are opening shops, buying land, and exploiting mines. But how welcome are the Chinese in Africa? And is their arrival a force for good?

Looking for answers to these timely questions, Howard French, a former Shanghai bureau chief of the New York Times, undertook a grand voyage through the African continent. He met with a diverse array of Chinese merchants, entrepreneurs and business men and asked them about their practices, methods, and outcomes. 

The most significant threat to today’s emerging markets is hidden in plain sight. No, it’s not education, it’s not health and it’s not income inequality. The most ignored threat to EMs development is violence. That’s the main thesis of “The Locust Effect”, a new book about emerging markets. 

On Thursday, the publication “Vaccine” publishes a study that shows the mass vaccination in Africa does not require constant refrigeration in specific cases. To be precise, 155,000 people in Benin got a vaccination against meningitis, with a vaccine kept in temperatures of up to 39°C.

To a layman that may not sound like game-changing news in the fight against preventable diseases. But actually, it may be. “It’s a breakthrough, because it breaks a dogma,” Michel Zafran, the WHO coordinator on the project, told beyondbrics. 

You can bring a horse to water. But can you stop it from drinking (too much)? In the upcoming year of the horse, China’s leaders need to figure out exactly that, as its local governments thirst for debt threatens to derail the economy. Will they succeed?

Liu Mingkang, former chairman of China’s Banking Regulatory Commission (pictured), left no doubt about the government’s intention to stop the flood of lending: “The signal is clear cut,” he told beyondbrics in an exclusive interview. “The torrent [of local government debt] is becoming quite limited.” 

It would be exaggerated to call Davos the “money Oscars”, as Jon Stewart did on the Daily Show. But this year, WEF participants did like to think of countries as winners or losers, especially among emerging markets. In this last roundup, beyondbrics summarises who, to paraphrase the FT, “was hot – and who decidedly not.” 

What will the EMs next “black swan” be? With the crash of the Argentinian peso, the difficult Syrian peace talks in Montreux, and Iran’s nuclear situation, WEF participants last week had enough scenario’s to reflect on. But one fear of Davos participants about emerging markets was a rather unexpected one: the EM middle class.

Nouriel Roubini, in the CNN debate on Emerging Markets, was quick to point it out. “Paradoxically, it’s not the proletarians that are in the street in countries like Brazil, Chile, India, or Ukraine,” he said. “It’s the middle class. They’re becoming restless.” 

On Friday evening in Davos, Paul Kagame, Nouriel Roubini and Carlos Ghosn discussed the next steps for emerging markets. Do you want to know what their predictions were?

EM private equity investors don’t. “We don’t get our EM news here from public debates,” says Paul Fletcher, from PE firm Actis, at Davos. His former colleague Sev Vettivetpillai agrees agrees: “You need to be on the ground yourself to understand what’s happening.”

However, they didn’t mind sharing their view on EMs. 

It was quite the wake-up for attendees at the WEF debate on Chinese-American-European cooperation. After a “well meant advice” of Harvard Professor Joseph Nye about Chinese policies in the South China sea, Wang Jianlin, China’s richest man, had had enough.

“I’m not happy with the professor’s comments,” he said. “This is an economic debate. Not a political one. This is not polite.” In this initial and later reaction, he revealed a few interesting things about his strategy and temper – and made it seem as though influential Chinese are misunderstood by the outside world. 

Africa needs infrastructure above everything else, but doesn’t have enough finance. True?

Not quite, perhaps. Prior to a Davos debate on investment challenges in Africa, Ben Kruger of Standard Bank warned: “If we focus on the wrong challenges, the world will move ahead without us.” Ahead of Thursday’s debate on Investment Trends in Africa, he put forward some counter-intuitive views. They can be distilled into two myths. 

Singapore stick

What if your company has strong talent in Asia and you want them to join your headquarters located elsewhere, but they just don’t want to?

The world’s top academic institutions have noticed the trend a few years ago: their Chinese students aren’t looking for jobs in the west anymore – they prefer to return home to China. But it’s not just Chinese Ivy League or Oxbridge graduates that prefer jobs at home – many talented Asian employees don’t want to move away from their region for a job in the first place. 

Forget the smartphone, the sports car, the gold jewellery. In the India of tomorrow, health will be the new wealth. “Tell me which gym you go to and I’ll tell you who you are: that could be true for India,” says Norbert Hueltenschmidt, health care specialist of consulting firm Bain & Company. 

If a county’s future wealth and influence can be assessed by its American-educated intellectual elite, then China is well set.

In less than a decade, the number of Chinese studying in the US has quadrupled, from a little over 60,000 in 2004, to almost 240,000 in 2013, a report from the Institution for International Education shows. China now accounts for almost one in every three international students in the US, a historic high for any country. 

It’s a good day for global health – and a good day for China National Biotec group, a leading Chinese vaccine manufacturer.

One of CNBG’s vaccines on Wednesday got “pre-qualified” by the World Health Organization for use all around the world, a first for a Chinese company