In mid-June 2020, Indian and Chinese forces clashed in the mountainous north-western portion of the Sino-Indian border in the Galwan River valley in Ladakh, resulting in scores of casualties, including twenty Indian and four Chinese deaths. Each side eventually deployed about 50,000 troops to this freezing battlefield located 14,000 feet above sea level. Both sides quickly deescalated, but the clash upended years of diplomatic efforts to resolve the long-simmering border dispute. Indian journalist Manoj Joshi’s new book Understanding the India-China Border provides details of the clash, historical insight into the causes of the fighting, and places the longtime Sino-Indian border dispute in the context of global geopolitics.

The United States vs. China: The Quest for Global Economic Leadership, C Fred Bergsten (Polity, April 2022)
The United States vs. China: The Quest for Global Economic Leadership, C Fred Bergsten (Polity, April 2022)

In this sweeping and authoritative analysis of the competition for global economic leadership between China and the United States, C Fred Bergsten draws on more than 50 years of active participation as a policymaker and close observation as a scholar.

We often neglect the Indian Ocean when we talk about our macro-level models of geopolitics, global economics or grand strategy—often in favor of the Atlantic or the Pacific. Yet the Indian Ocean—along whose coasts live a third of humanity—may be a better vehicle to understand how our world is changing.

Much like countries, regions are man-made, prone to arbitrary borders reflecting the priorities of long dead statesmen. In the 19th century, French leaders discovered “Latin America” as they sought to expand their influence in the Western hemisphere. The American strategist Alfred Thayer Mahan popularized the “Middle East” in a book that guided generations of naval officers. At the dawn of a multipolar world order, it seems likely that some “new” region might come to embody its anxieties and ambitions. Beyond Liberal Order, a recent collection of essays edited by Harry Verhoeven and Anatol Lieven, offers the “Global Indian Ocean” as the geographical unit ripe with insight for our age. 

Kazakhstan, like Ukraine and Belarus, temporarily became a potential nuclear weapons power after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. The Soviets had deployed 104 SS-18 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) containing more than 1400 nuclear warheads in the Kazakh steppe. These were the largest and most threatening land-based Soviet nuclear weapons, and their future control was uncertain in the wake of the Soviet collapse. Togzhan Kassenova, a senior fellow at the University of Albany, a non-resident fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and a native Kazakh whose father was head of Kazakhstan’s Center for Strategic Studies at the time, tells the story of the diplomatic minuet between Kazakhstan, Russia, and the United States in the early- and mid-1990s that resulted in Kazakhstan’s surrender of any claim over those weapons in her new and timely book Atomic Steppe

Although Gideon Defoe’s An Atlas of Extinct Countries, described by the publisher as “Prisoners of Geography meets Bill Bryson”, is glib and on occasion snarky, it overlays a serious and topical point: what is a country, what are borders and who says so? “Treating nation states with too much respect is maybe the entire problem with pretty much everything,” he writes. “Countries are just daft stories we tell each other. They’re all equally implausible once you get up close.”

With the demand for books describing the rise of China and regional dynamics in Asia, more and more translations of works from Asian thinkers have been making it into English. Back in 2015, Shiraishi Takashi, professor and prominent foreign policy commentator in the daily newspapers of Japan, gave a series of influential lectures that were collected and edited into a book. Maritime Asia vs Continental Asia: National Strategies in a Region of Change presents a framework for examining the changing political environment in Asia.