Vijay Gokhale retired as India’s Foreign Secretary in 2020 after nearly four decades in the diplomatic corps, specializing in China, including a posting as Indian Ambassador in Beijing, experience much in evidence in his recent thoughtful and surprisingly frank book on Sino-Indian diplomacy.
The papers are currently full of articles and commentary on the ever-closer relationship between China and Russia, of their compatible economies, state visits, joint projects, shared geopolitical interests and camaraderie between their leaders.
One image that, rightly or wrongly, can come to mind when discussing North Korea is Kim Jong Un clapping and laughing at a nuclear missile test while his people suffer. The young dictator cuts and eccentric figure: an obese thirty-something with a zero fade haircut in a baggy Zhongshan suit. His friendship with NBA star Dennis Rodman and handshake with Donald Trump have sealed his cult figure status among Western audiences. But Benjamin R Young’s Guns, Guerillas and the Great Leader reminds us of a time when North Korea involved itself more constructively on the world stage promoting its anti-imperialist ideology in the Third World.
Never in Nepal’s recent history has talk of China been so heated, or controversial, than in recent years. Since India’s 2015 border blockade, which crippled a Nepal still struggling to rebuild from a devasting earthquake, talk in Kathmandu has ramped up about the benefits of a stronger relationship with the nascent superpower to its north.
Eyck Freymann begins his recent book by asking “What is One Belt One Road?” It’s a deceptively straightforward question, for the answer depends greatly on who’s doing the asking and why. Freyman poses the question on behalf of Americans and, in particular, American policy-makers.
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected every country around the world in a manner not seen since the Great Financial Crisis of 2008, and is perhaps one of the most transformative events in decades. Most countries and governments have played catch-up to the pandemic, trying to get a handle on case numbers after an explosive increase. But a few places: Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, New Zealand, Australia, Vietnam and China appear to have kept the virus largely under control.
If 2020 ends up being remembered as a pivotal year along the lines of 1914, perhaps as the year the 21st century actually began, COVID-19 is likely to be the main cause. Much of what was considered “normal” in everything from everyday life to geopolitics has been swept away. What hasn’t changed, however, is that publishing, like nature, abhors a vacuum: books on the subject have already started to arrive.