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.
As China grows into a major regional and global power, there are many questions about what this means for the international system. Does China threaten the United States? Does Washington want to aggressively contain China? Are we really facing a “New Cold War”? And what does this mean for everyone else?
For the countries of Southeast Asia, geographical proximity to China is a blessing and a curse. In the Dragon’s Shadow, Southeast Asia in the Chinese Century, by Sebastian Strangio, manages to sketch the history these nations have with China and detail the current geopolitical situation in an engaging fashion. While the book is prefaced with an imposing list of acronyms for the political parties and economic agreements discussed, this Yale University Press publication is the work of a journalist with an excellent grip on history rather than an academic.
The first takeaway from Gilles Kepel’s new book Away from Chaos is the immense complexity of Middle East politics.