In 2015, the Paris Climate Agreement hinged on a recalcitrant India. Prime Minister Modi knew that restricting coal could imperil the promises he’d made to the 300 million Indians still living without electricity. Nonetheless, he assented to the Agreement after a meeting with US President Barack Obama. Modi wasn’t won over with arguments over climate models, green energy, or ethics. Rather, Obama offered Modi a narrative that tied his personal experience to India’s colonial history: “Look, you know, I get it. I’m black, I’m African American. I know what it’s like to be in an unfair system where a bunch of people got rich on your back… but I also have to live in the world that I’m in, and if I just made decisions based on that resentment, then I actually would never catch up.”
Entering the 21st century, however, slowing economic growth, an ageing population, global competition, and widening income dispersion have put the Singapore System under strain. This has prompted a significant refresh of social and economic policies over the past 15-20 years.
Opium’s role in the history of East Asia has been well-documented, most notably perhaps in Julia Lovell’s definitive 2011 book The Opium War. This, and others like it, deal with the issue mostly from the perspective of the consuming countries, in particular China; Thomas Manuel’s Opium Inc. is noteworthy in focusing just as much on the producer: India.
We think we know the history of China’s opening to the outside world. Maoist China was closed off, until Deng Xiaoping decided to reform the economy and open up to international trade, leading to the economic powerhouse we see today.
Viewed from a perch in Hong Kong, one of the most striking things about Lion City, Jeevan Vasagar’s new book on Singapore, Hong Kong’s best frenemy, is that it includes nary a mention of Asia’s World City.
The question of how a state committed to Communism became the world’s biggest trading nation in markets dominated largely by capitalist countries, controlling industries and setting prices, has long been puzzling. Author Jason M Kelly, in Market Maoists, provides a sober, detailed account of the way modern China came to see that global trade could be a way to “fortify socialism … rather than degrade it.”
The Tyranny of Nations places the ground-shaking political and economic events of modern times in context. Palak Patel draws on his experience investing in government bond markets to demonstrate how the present fits a specific historical pattern that has defined the past 500 years.