Andrew B Liu’s Tea War comes with a promising title and an equally promising concept. What better window into macro-economic evolution of east and south Asia than the development of iconic beverage of the region, “the most consumed beverage around the world today” aside from water? And war it was, between the centuries-old Chinese and nascent Indian exports of a quintessentially Asian commodity.

“Decoupling” is the international relations word-of-the-day. American politicians have long criticized the massive trade deficit between the United States and China, but pandemic-driven disruptions to supply chains and deepening tensions between Beijing and Washington have now encouraged policies to start rolling back the links between the two economies. And it’s not just the United States: Europe, Japan, and Taiwan have all mooted policies to reduce their reliance on Chinese manufacturing.

It can be difficult to remember today, but before 1978—the beginning of the reform era—famines struck China with depressing regularity. Many (or perhaps most) of them were human-induced. That certainly goes for the terrible famine of 1959-1961, which resulted from Mao Zedong’s so-called “Great Leap Forward” economic development program. A key element of this murderous social experiment was the forced collectivization of farmers into enormous People’s Communes consisting of thousands of households. Intended to bring about food security and income levels approaching those of the United Kingdom (the Soviet Union wanted to surpass the US, so Mao targeted the UK), it led instead to the starvation of some 20-50 million people. No one knows the true number.

With almost 17% year-on-year growth, India’s is the world’s fastest growing smartphone population; more than a billion phones are estimated to be sold over the next five years. There are now more Indians with smartphones than the entire population of the United States, driven by phones that cost as little as 10,000 rupees (US$150).