Many years ago, when I was about thirteen and home in Khartoum for the holidays from school in England, my mother took me on a train trip to Port Sudan, from where we drove to Suakin, an extensive deserted city on the Red Sea. Old Ottoman-style buildings lay scattered around us in ruinous states ranging from the almost intact to mere piles of bricks and stones. I was particularly struck, I remember, by the enclosed balconies which jutted out from the second floors of some of them, and remember wondering what the people who looked out from them might have been like. Why didn’t anyone live there any more? What happened to them?

Predicting the global future is never easy. Even the most knowledgeable and fair-minded observers of geopolitics frequently miss the mark. After the First World War, the German historian Oswald Spengler predicted the decline of the West. In 1964, the American political philosopher James Burnham opined that the West was committing suicide. In 1987, just a few years before the collapse of the Soviet Union, Yale’s Paul Kennedy warned that the US would likely suffer from imperial overstretch in its struggle with Soviet-led communism.

China or India? India or China? Maybe Chindia? Anyone who has ever spent much time thinking about the future of the Asia or any particular country or company’s relationship to it, has probably asked this question, and more than once. Several terms, such as “Asia- Pacific” or the newly-launched “Indo-Pacific”, carry this question within it.

The history of Singapore before the foundation of the modern version of the city by Sir Stamford Raffles in 1819 has been largely ignored. This volume of eighteen articles (with a wide range of original publication dates) looks to rectify this and show that Singapore, because of its strategic location in the shipping route between East and West, was heavily involved in pre-British waves of global trade and colonization.

To imagine the Shanghai of the 1930s is to frame art-deco frontages on chiaroscuro streets, behind which noirish figures from a polyglot demi-monde sip whiskies and soda. The city in this era has an imaginative power in the Western mind beyond that of any other place in China, fuelled by an intoxicating cocktail of equal measures myth and reality. Paul French, a long-time resident of the city, now returned to London, offers two complimentary portraits of the place and those westerners pulled inexorably toward it in his new books, City of Devils and Destination Shanghai.

Hawai’i is the one part of the USA proper that is unambiguously Asian, both in its origins as well as in its current demographics and orientation. Its idyllic image, writes Sharon Chang in her new book, Hapa Tales and Other Lies, is fraught with problems, namely that the Native Polynesian culture has been exploited over many years and in many ways. Right away, readers know they are in for a different interpretation of this vacation paradise.