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Asia's Cauldron: The South China Sea and the End of a Stable Pacific Paperback – 24 Apr 2014

4.5 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books Inc. (24 April 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812999061
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812999068
  • Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 1.7 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 149,875 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

Advance praise for "Asia's Cauldron"

""Asia's Cauldron" is a perfect summation of the present turbulent moment in history, when the World War II security structure is beginning a rapid transformation. Kaplan engages the striking possibilities of where the current confrontation between China and Japan could lead, and underscores the point that this is a lot more significant than a simple border dispute."--Paul Bracken, Yale University, author of "The Second Nuclear Age"

"Master global strategist Robert D. Kaplan turns his gaze to the bubbling heat of the South China Sea in his latest tour de force. "Asia's Cauldron" deconstructs the extreme volatility of this enormous, dangerous, and vital maritime space. By thoughtfully pulling apart the complex tangle of argument and accusation among the nations of the region, he helps provide a well-charted course for the United States in this most turbulent geopolitical zone of the twenty-first-century.""--"Admiral James Stavridis, United States Navy (Ret.), dean of the Fletcher School at Tufts University and Supreme Allied Commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, 2009-2013

"Robert D. Kaplan has done it again: he has written an engaging--but disturbing--book about an area of the world that to most Americans is a distant rimland. Yet in an era of emerging Sino-American competition, the larger Southeast Asian region could well become the explosive cynosure of new great-power rivalries. "Asia's Cauldron" is a wonderful and captivating guide that illumines the myriad colliding forces that will shape the future of the Indo-Pacific."--Ashley J. Tellis, senior associate, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

"A riveting, multitextured look at an underexamined region of the world and, perhaps, at the 'anxious, complicated world' of the future.""--Booklist"


"From the Hardcover edition."

"This is the latest in a series of insightful books . . . in which Robert D. Kaplan . . . tries to explain how geography determines destiny--and what we should be doing about it. "Asia's Cauldron" is a short book with a powerful thesis, and it stands out for its clarity and good sense from the great mass of Western writing on what Chinese politicians have taken to calling their 'peaceful development.' If you are doing business in China, traveling in Southeast Asia or just obsessing about geopolitics, you will want to read it. . . . Throughout the book, Kaplan tempers hard-nose geopolitics with an engaging mix of history and travelogue."--"The New York Times Book Review"
" "
"Kaplan has established himself as one of our most consequential geopolitical thinkers. . . . ["Asia's Cauldron"] is part treatise on geopolitics, part travel narrative. Indeed, he writes in the tradition of the great travel writers."--"The Weekly Standard"
" "
"Kaplan's fascinating book is a welcome challenge to the pessimists who see only trouble in China's rise and the hawks who view it as malign."--"The Economist"
" "
"Muscular, deeply knowledgeable . . . Kaplan is an ultra-realist [who] takes a non-moralistic stance on questions of power and diplomacy."--"Financial Times"
" "
"A riveting, multitextured look at an underexamined region of the world and, perhaps, at the 'anxious, complicated world' of the future.""--Booklist
"
"Part travelogue, part history, and part geostrategic analysis, "Asia's Cauldron" sets some lofty goals for itself and largely succeeds in presenting a holistic look at the competing diplomatic and economic interests of the nations along the South China Sea. . . . This volume is an excellent primer to the conflicting ambitions, fears, and futures of the nations bordering this vital sea-lane, which will remain one of the most dangerous flashpoints of the coming decade."--"New York Journal of Books"
" "
"In reminding Americans that their age of 'simple dominance' must pass, [Kaplan] avoids joining those groping in the dark and almost takes the detached stance of a historian of coming decades, describing how that future Asia came to be. This acceptance of Asia's complexity and the limits of influence that any outside power has may well be the most valuable lesson."--"National Review"
""Asia's Cauldron" is a perfect summation of the present turbulent moment in history, when the World War II security structure is beginning a rapid transformation. Kaplan engages the striking possibilities of where the current confrontation between China and Japan could lead, and underscores the point that this is a lot more significant than a simple border dispute."--Paul Bracken, Yale University, author of "The Second Nuclear Age"
"Master global strategist Robert D. Kaplan turns his gaze to the bubbling heat of the South China Sea in his latest tour de force. "Asia's Cauldron" deconstructs the extreme volatility of this enormous, dangerous, and vital maritime space. By thoughtfully pulling apart the complex tangle of argument and accusation among the nations of the region, he helps provide a well-charted course for the United States in this most turbulent geopolitical zone of the twenty-first-century.""--"Admiral James Stavridis, United States Navy (Ret.), dean of the Fletcher School at Tufts University and Supreme Allied Commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, 2009-2013
"Robert D. Kaplan has done it again: he has written an engaging--but disturbing--book about an area of the world that to most Americans is a distant rimland. Yet in an era of emerging Sino-American competition, the larger Southeast Asian region could well become the explosive cynosure of new great-power rivalries. "Asia's Cauldron" is a wonderful and captivating guide that illumines the myriad colliding forces that will shape the future of the Indo-Pacific."--Ashley J. Tellis, senior associate, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace


"From the Hardcover edition."

This is the latest in a series of insightful books . . . in which Robert D. Kaplan . . . tries to explain how geography determines destiny and what we should be doing about it. "Asia s Cauldron" is a short book with a powerful thesis, and it stands out for its clarity and good sense from the great mass of Western writing on what Chinese politicians have taken to calling their peaceful development. If you are doing business in China, traveling in Southeast Asia or just obsessing about geopolitics, you will want to read it. . . . Throughout the book, Kaplan tempers hard-nose geopolitics with an engaging mix of history and travelogue. "The New York Times Book Review"
""
Kaplan has established himself as one of our most consequential geopolitical thinkers. . . . ["Asia s Cauldron"] is part treatise on geopolitics, part travel narrative. Indeed, he writes in the tradition of the great travel writers. "The Weekly Standard"
""
Kaplan s fascinating book is a welcome challenge to the pessimists who see only trouble in China s rise and the hawks who view it as malign. "The Economist"
""
Muscular, deeply knowledgeable . . . Kaplan is an ultra-realist [who] takes a non-moralistic stance on questions of power and diplomacy. "Financial Times"
""
A riveting, multitextured look at an underexamined region of the world and, perhaps, at the anxious, complicated world of the future. " Booklist
"
Part travelogue, part history, and part geostrategic analysis, "Asia s Cauldron" sets some lofty goals for itself and largely succeeds in presenting a holistic look at the competing diplomatic and economic interests of the nations along the South China Sea. . . . This volume is an excellent primer to the conflicting ambitions, fears, and futures of the nations bordering this vital sea-lane, which will remain one of the most dangerous flashpoints of the coming decade. "New York Journal of Books"
""
In reminding Americans that their age of simple dominance must pass, [Kaplan] avoids joining those groping in the dark and almost takes the detached stance of a historian of coming decades, describing how that future Asia came to be. This acceptance of Asia s complexity and the limits of influence that any outside power has may well be the most valuable lesson. "National Review"
"Asia s Cauldron" is a perfect summation of the present turbulent moment in history, when the World War II security structure is beginning a rapid transformation. Kaplan engages the striking possibilities of where the current confrontation between China and Japan could lead, and underscores the point that this is a lot more significant than a simple border dispute. Paul Bracken, Yale University, author of "The Second Nuclear Age"
Master global strategist Robert D. Kaplan turns his gaze to the bubbling heat of the South China Sea in his latest tour de force. "Asia s Cauldron" deconstructs the extreme volatility of this enormous, dangerous, and vital maritime space. By thoughtfully pulling apart the complex tangle of argument and accusation among the nations of the region, he helps provide a well-charted course for the United States in this most turbulent geopolitical zone of the twenty-first-century. " "Admiral James Stavridis, United States Navy (Ret.), dean of the Fletcher School at Tufts University and Supreme Allied Commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, 2009 2013
Robert D. Kaplan has done it again: he has written an engaging but disturbing book about an area of the world that to most Americans is a distant rimland. Yet in an era of emerging Sino-American competition, the larger Southeast Asian region could well become the explosive cynosure of new great-power rivalries. "Asia s Cauldron" is a wonderful and captivating guide that illumines the myriad colliding forces that will shape the future of the Indo-Pacific. Ashley J. Tellis, senior associate, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace


"From the Hardcover edition."" --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Robert D. Kaplan is the bestselling author of sixteen books on foreign affairs and travel translated into many languages, including "Asia s Cauldron, The Revenge of Geography, Monsoon, The Coming Anarchy, "and" Balkan Ghosts." He is a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security and a contributing editor at "The Atlantic, " where his work has appeared for three decades. He was chief geopolitical analyst at Stratfor, a visiting professor at the United States Naval Academy, and a member of the Pentagon s Defense Policy Board. "Foreign Policy" magazine has twice named him one of the world s Top 100 Global Thinkers.

"From the Hardcover edition."" --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.


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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.
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The book is an eclectic mix of the geo-strategic, economic, cultural and military viewpoints covering the area of the South China Sea and its importance in the decades to come. The importance of the area is undisputed and the author does a good job of presenting this clearly, while clearly writing for a lay audience - i.e. not really going into the level of detail level required by an expert.

After an introduction, which covers the relevant maps and the trade route / resource reasons that make the South China Sea so important globally, is followed by individual chapters, covering the development trajectories of the countries bordering the South China Sea. This means China, Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia, with comments on the role of the US, Japan and Australia factored in, too.

The author certainly went to great lengths travel-wise, in order to write the book. Country visits and rafts of first hand interviews have been organized and carried out, all of which informed the work. This makes the book an engaging and varied read. Therefore it is not an in-depth analysis and uses fewer analytical sources than a book more geared towards an expert reader. It also means that the author is more at the mercy of the statements of individual interview partners for his opinion, somewhat but not always ameliorated by the number of interviews.

Put differently this means the author is not an expert in any single area. Therefore you will get much better insight into the naval / military component of the conflict by reading something like Till's
...Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
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.
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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.
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