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Easternisation: War & Peace in the Asian Century, Gideon Rachman - Review

Murad Qureshi reviews the Financial Times' Foreign Correspondent's latest book


There have been several books in recent times that have discussed the Asian century and the geopolitical implications of China’s rapid economic advancement. However, none have taken it into the military sphere as the discourse in this book does so well - looking at its implications for war and peace in the Asian century.  

The extraordinary economic development in Asia over the last fifty years has meant a long running shift in global economic power, making it harder for the US & Europe to generate the military, political and ideological resources needed to impose order on the world - as demonstrated so clearly in the Middle East. As a former Chinese ambassador to London, Fu Ying argues, “the US led world order is a suit that no longer fits”.

The Obama administration famously made a “pivot” to the Pacific in response to these developments with trade agreements to Pacific nations. What is less known is the extent of the military pivot into those shores as it shifted its vast naval resources and strengthened its network of alliances with nations like India and Japan.  

So, we live in dangerous times when an established great power is challenged by a rising one. This recurrent pattern is known as the “Thucydides’ Trap” after the ancient Greek historian observed this first when Athens saw Sparta as a threat in the fifth century BC, causing conflict between the two. The book highlights where these conflicts could potentially happen in the Asian Pacific region from the Japanese and Korean dilemmas in the battle for South-East Asia with China looking to majorly increase its influence in the region.

What Rachman could not have foreseen in early 2016 was that Donald Trump would be elected President, though he does mention his very anti-Chinese stance during his election campaign with trade war threats and blaming them for the alleged climate change hoax. This continued while he was President-elect when he challenged the notion of “one China” and now we just await the next bombastic executive orders and tweets aimed at the Chinese but this time from the White House itself! So, whilst the Chinese have taken up leadership of economic globalisation, the US falls into protectionism and isolationism, look out for the manifestations of this change in military conflict.

By the time the book comes out in paperback, with a new foreword covering the election of President Donald Trump, we will have been fully immersed into “Trump’s world” which will undoubtedly intensify the conflict between the US & China. The writer himself would like us to go beyond East and West altogether and that is the challenge ahead.


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