on 30 May 2014
Robert Kaplan could not have timed this book any better with China laying aggressive claims to oil exploration rights off the Vietnam coast. He gives a thorough analysis of each of the principal players at threat from China's long game in the South China Sea.
Most impressive is how he uses a consistent analytical framework which is devoid of obvious emotion and bias. In particular he compares China's increasing dominance in the South China Sea to how the US seized control of the Caribbean from European powers in the 19th Century. This gives an air of inevitability to the shift of power now taking place and how US will be marginalized sooner or later.
Whist he sees the risk of military confict flaring up, his thesis does not depend on it. Sheer military might in the region will likely be enough for China - when a big tatooed guy muscles down the street, he does not need violence, his visible presence can be enought to intimidate others.
Kaplan also gives engaging profiles and insights into key leaders in Asia - Lee Kwan Yew, Mahathir and Deng - and the cast of fools which have run the Philippines.
I found this the perfect lens through which to view developments in Asia. But more than that I found his approach to be very useful in viewing geopolitical developments elsewhere - such as Ukraine and the Middle East.
on 18 June 2014
This book gives a very good and objective reasoning, about the developing tension in the south china sea. The chapters about the autocratic nation builders of the region, is one of the best I have read. Considering the author is an american, the book gives an outlook of the countries interests in the region that is logical for the specific countries, and is more from a human perspective than an american one.. The downside is at times mr.Kaplan tries to describe scenery with a failed attemt at writing like Oscar Wilde. But when the book is at its best, it shows incredible insight, and a man who is worthy of your attention.
One chapter (Singapore and malaysia ) I would have no problem recomending, as part of a high school curriculum. In other words a very good book..
Please overlook my bad english.
on 26 April 2014
The two maps at the start of the book tell the story perfectly.
In the first larger map of East Asia it's clear where the main trade routes go, and where the various pieces of the jigsaw fit together. It's also clear that from Beijing's point of view, China is somewhat fenced in by that first chain of islands that stretches from the South China Sea to Japan, Taiwan included, and that its arterial trade routes could be seriously compromised should anything untoward happen. This explains China's strategic needs, and its endless belligerent jostling over seemingly innocuous rocks in the middle of nowhere.
The second map is of the South China Sea, fenced in as it is by Indochina, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Phillippines, and Taiwan. This is the crucial artery for Chinese trade, and also a source of probable energy in its own right. The map delineates all the claims made on the various sandbanks and islands, including China's seemingly ludicrous Cow's Tongue that dangles all the way into the SCS. Kaplan explains how each comes about, and how the various bits of the tactical puzzle - Vietnam's strength, Singapore's pocket hercules, The Philippines' weakness - intermesh with Beijing's ambitions.
It's a clear and fascinating guide, and the reader is left with little doubt that what happens in the SCS will be crucial for decades to come, and the main reason why the US cannot afford to lift its focus from the region (despite the distraction Russia seems to be providing in Ukraine). Good stuff.
on 12 November 2014
An up to date orientation, and a good one at that, about this very important area, which is steadily growing in significance also for the rest of the world. I missed, however, some information about the importance of India and Burma in this game, seeing the text quite a few times refers to the Indo-Pacific. This 'omission' does not, though, distract from the good information the book gives about South East Asia east of the Malacca Strait. The book is highly recommended.
on 12 September 2015
I find the subject topic of China's exploits and current rise to a world mega-power to be thoroughly fascinating, and this fantastic account by Robert Kaplan really does do wonders to explain matters clearly and concisely to anybody who would be interested. I am a university student studying Geography so I will definitely be researching, reading and referencing Robert's works in my essays/reports in the future, he is an author to be trusted in terms of global and regional geo-politics.