There’s much to be said for attempting to develop social and political theories, models and philosophies based on something other than Western lines of thought and datasets; the latter’s universality and applicability to the wider world is something which, if not taken merely on faith, that needs to be demonstrated. China, with intellectual, political and social histories of its own, offers both alternatives to, and tests of, prevailing Western conventions.

Geopolitical analysis is partly based on geographical perspective. Writers on geopolitics tend to view the world from their home country’s perspective. Australian national security expert Rory Medcalf in his new book Indo-Pacific Empire uses classical geopolitics and an understanding of modern geoeconomics to survey the current struggle for power in the most contested and consequential part of the world. And he does this from an Australian perspective—an Australian, moreover, whose diplomatic postings included India. That said, his book is a tour de force of 21st century geopolitical analysis that should be read by strategists and statesmen throughout the region and the world.

It would be easy to characterize An Yu’s outstanding debut novel Braised Pork as a mystical journey of one woman’s grief, but that is to almost say nothing about the book at all. Jia Jia is a young woman faced with the sudden suicide of her husband; her story reads like a heavy dream. Its characters, its stuttering plot, its surreal setting and An Yu’s ability to fold in the strangeness of the work into our own reality, make it unforgettable.

Mention Japanese film and responses will likely range from the 1950s Golden Age to today’s panoply of genre movies. The variance has less to do with conflicts between artistry and populism—even Kurosawa famously trafficked in samurai—than with context and perspective. International acclaim, whether past or present, offers only a limited vista on a country’s internal cinematic life; to make full sense of Japan’s giant dinosaurs, yakuza gangsters and animated princesses, you need someone well-placed on the ground. Someone like Mark Schilling.

China Tomorrow: Democracy or Dictatorship?, Jean-Pierre Cabestan (Rowman & Littlefield, July 2019)
China Tomorrow: Democracy or Dictatorship?, Jean-Pierre Cabestan (Rowman & Littlefield, July 2019)

In his review of my book China Tomorrow: Democracy or Dictatorship?, Francis Sempa took issue with the point I made that China’s willingness to become a “respected great power and full member of the international community” may convince her elites in the future to democratize her political system, in arguing that this country has already acquired this status.