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The End of the Asian Century: War, Stagnation, and the Risks to the World’s Most Dynamic Region

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An urgently needed “risk map” of the many dangers that could derail Asia’s growth and stability

"A point-by-point debunking of the 'Asiaphoria' that gripped so many imaginations a decade ago . . . Auslin argues that the conditions are building for major-power conflict in Asia and the Pacific."—David Frum, Atlantic

Since Marco Polo, the West has waited for the “Asian Century.” Today, the world believes that Century has arrived. Yet from China’s slumping economy to war clouds over the South China Sea and from environmental devastation to demographic crisis, Asia’s future is increasingly uncertain. Historian and geopolitical expert Michael Auslin argues that far from being a cohesive powerhouse, Asia is a fractured region threatened by stagnation and instability. Here, he provides a comprehensive account of the economic, military, political, and demographic risks that bedevil half of our world, arguing that Asia, working with the United States, has a unique opportunity to avert catastrophe – but only if it acts boldly. Bringing together firsthand observations and decades of research, Auslin’s provocative reassessment of Asia’s future will be a must‑read for industry and investors, as well as politicians and scholars, for years to come.

304 pages, Hardcover

First published January 10, 2017

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Michael R. Auslin

6 books13 followers

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Profile Image for Raghu.
382 reviews79 followers
November 13, 2019
I spent a few hours in the airports of Hong Kong and Singapore in the year 2001 on my way to India from San Francisco. I remember then the book stores in both airports prominently displaying volumes on the economic rise of both China and India and how the 21st century would belong to Asia. The optimism in those books was intoxicating if one happened to be Asian. Some authors opined that southern and western India would mostly become middle-class by 2015 and that India as a whole would become a middle-income nation in four decades. The prognosis for China was even more audacious. China was expected to dethrone the US from its pre-eminent position in the world, both in economic and scientific advancement, in three decades. For one like me, who grew up in India for three decades, it all sounded too bullish to be true. My skepticism was mainly due to my experience of the massive challenges we face in India in the spheres of education, health, employment, environmental pollution, poverty, democracy, and literacy. I knew that even China confronts many of these problems though in a somewhat different proportion. Neither China's Jiang Zemin nor India's Atal Behari Vajpayee seemed to possess a magic wand that could catapult these nations in two or three decades to the relatively tropospheric heights that many of these books suggested. Since then, more and more books and articles have continued on this theme as if history progresses linearly upward. However, by 2015, more and more experts have started expressing doubts about the inevitable rise of Asia and the 'decline' of the US. There has been more focus on the many problems that China is facing and will encounter in the future. I felt that I derived my instinctive skepticism from my experience of growing up in India rather than any innate pessimism or a colonial complex. The rather bold and provocative title of this book appealed to my doubts and induced me to read it. Reading the book clarified to me the reasons for my reservations on the future of Asia.

Though the title of the book proclaims the end of the Asian century, author Michael Auslin does not make any definitive predictions about Asia's future. He mainly disputes the notion of the 'inexorable rise of Asia' to world dominance without adequate analysis of the many formidable roadblocks that obstruct the path. He identifies five significant problems that can drag Asia down. They are as follows:
- The sharp economic slowdowns in many Asian countries,
- demographic concerns due to rising and declining populations,
- absence of regional cooperation mechanisms,
- incomplete and unfinished political revolutions within the nations, and finally,
- the many lingering conflicts between them, which can lead to War.
These questions are analyzed over five chapters, mainly involving countries in South, South-East, and East Asia. Even in these regions, the focus is primarily on Japan, S.Korea, China, and India. West Asia and Central Asia are conspicuous by their absence.

The author says that the economic downturn in Asia in recent years has affected practically all the leading democratic as well as dictatorial nations. Since the financial crisis of 2008, China's growth has sharply declined and is likely to plunge further. Whatever growth that occurs, does so through reliance on credit and relatively unproductive infrastructure investments. There is not much movement on economic reforms to advance its services sector or climbing up the technology pole. China's total debt, from corporations, households, and the government, is now said to top 300 percent of GDP. There is little transparency in all these debt transactions. Hence, it could be a ticking time bomb. China's exports to the world have shrunk. Since 2017, it has had to contend with a trade war with the US as well. Japan has been stagnant for twenty-five years, growing at 1%. S.Korea and Taiwan also have slowed down to barely under 3% GDP growth. India, after many heady years of growth till 2015, has dropped to 5% since then. Reforms in India have not progressed in spite of all the fanfare surrounding the Modi regime.

On the demographic front, Japan, Taiwan, and S.Korea are already into the 'low fertility trap' of reaching a TFR of less than 1.5. Dystopian images of robots at hotel receptions and restaurants are already a reality in these countries. China, though officially said to be at a fertility rate of 1.56, is believed to be at a much lower rate. Coupled with their one-child policy of the past decades, it is facing the start of population decline and peaking of its workforce by 2025. All this portends the rapid aging of its population by 2050, bringing with it associated problems. Immigration is the obvious answer to this problem. But these East Asian nations are too insular to contemplate such a solution. India and Indonesia, on the contrary, face the challenge of too many young men and women but too few jobs for them. India also has the dubious distinction of 30% of its population deemed 'functionally illiterate.'

Michael Auslin makes some perceptive observations on the idea of Asia as a regional entity. He says that, unlike Europe or North America, Asia has not been successful in building an Asian organization like the EU or NATO. The main reason for this is that not much binds most of the Asian nations together except that they are 'all Asian.' Politically, militarily, and economically, they are at different stages of development. Unlike the EU, culturally also the Asian nations are quite diverse. All these factors make it hard to find common cause. On the economic front, though ASEAN has been in existence for twenty-five years, it does not speak with one voice. Nor did the ASEAN spring to the aid of Indonesia during the tsunami tragedy of 2004, which killed more than two hundred thousand people. When the Myanmar government carried out ethnic cleansing of its Rohingya Muslims, no ASEAN nation came forward to provide relief or asylum for the hundreds of thousands of refugees. In both cases, it was the Western powers that went to the aid of the affected. Similarly, any security architecture for Asia will have a problematic starting point because India, Japan, and some ASEAN nations see China as the principal threat. China, on the other hand, though militarily by far the most powerful, still fears countries like India, Japan, and Australia ganging up against it in the Indo-Pacific.

The book raises another issue that the 'Asian century' euphoria mostly chooses to miss. Political stability in Asia is still fragile, and governance often echoes third-world characteristics. Politically, China is becoming increasingly authoritarian and centralized in spite of economic advancement. The Communist Party has increased its control of the internet and has concentrated more powers in its hands. In South Korea, democracy is well-rooted, but politicians' corruption is a stubborn issue. The courts have indicted three of the nation's Prime Ministers for bribery. Crony capitalism permeates the economy. Security worries regarding N.Korea and its eventual collapse are significant concerns. Indonesia's political democracy is nascent, as it has been a democracy only since 2004. The country spans 16000 islands, and hence, political stability and governance are essential concerns. Singapore and Malaysia govern in a top-down model, giving rise to dissatisfaction with their political systems. Demands for democracy have often bogged them down. Corruption and Islamic fundamentalism are worrying issues in Malaysia. Jihadist threat is a concern in Indonesia.

Thailand's democracy also has shown itself to be unstable. India and Japan are stable democracies. However, corruption and the underground black money economy are problems that defy solutions in India. Year after year, air pollution in Delhi and elsewhere in northern India during the winter months is at unacceptable levels, exposing incompetent governance. Governance problems in China were evident in 2013 when 3000 dead pigs floated down the Shanghai river. China's water pollution is worse than its air pollution. Both are at unsustainable levels. Its factories destroy numerous lakes, and half the population still lacks access to safe drinking water. Cleaning up the environment to enable better living conditions is a mammoth task in many Asian countries.

The closing point that Michael Auslin makes is that War is a great danger facing Asia. It must come as a shock to many 'Asian century' partisans. With four nuclear powers amongst them, there can be a complacency that War is not a possibility. But tensions over the Senkakou islands in the East China Sea between Japan and China, the Takeshima islands between Japan and S.Korea, the Spratly islands in the south China sea between China and the S.E.Asian states are all smoldering problems. Land border disputes between India and China are still unresolved for more than half a century. The author warns against a naïve belief that China and Japan will not go to War over the Senkakou islands because their economic ties are too deep. In the same way, we cannot rely on the belief that North Korea will not launch a nuclear missile at Seoul or Tokyo because to do so would be suicidal. Asia does not have a multilateral institution or architecture like NATO or the EU to de-escalate tensions and develop collective solutions. The absence of such mechanisms makes the escalation of conflicts more likely.

In the final chapter, Auslin suggests more democracy, more liberalization, a rules-based framework for the Indo-Pacific, and greater American involvement in Asia as solutions. Many Asian nations would probably welcome such a solution. Nonetheless, the author can also come under sharp criticism for such a US-centric view of Asia. After all, Asians have been at the receiving end of violent American engagement in Vietnam, Korea, Afghanistan, and Iraq for half a century. Nor can India and Bangladesh easily forget the disastrous US support to the Pakistani military regime during the 1971 liberation of East Pakistan. One has to have something akin to a missionary zeal to believe that greater US involvement in Asia can prevent conflicts and War. Still, we know that China is by far militarily the most powerful state in Asia today. It is an authoritarian and illiberal state, and other Asian nations are justified in their fear of China. In such a scenario, the US is the only power that can genuinely act as a deterrent to this threat. So, one cannot fault the author for opting for greater US involvement in Asia, as a way to keep the peace.
Regarding the other problems enumerated by the author, one could argue that Asia has had these problems for many years now, but it has still been growing at a rapid pace. Both Japan and S.Korea are still very much first-world nations in spite of their economic slowdown and other regional security problems with N.Korea and China. Experts have been predicting a collapse of the Chinese economy since 2004, but China has been growing stronger each year. Still, the Chinese economic growth model may hide more than it reveals. It was in March 2007, at the height of a decade-long economic boom, the then-Premier Wen Jiabao gave an uncharacteristically gloomy press conference. He warned that the Chinese growth model had become "unsteady, unbalanced, uncoordinated, and unsustainable." Michael Auslin's book echoes this sentiment with a lot of supporting evidence.

On the issue of possible 'war in Asia', we know that internecine conflicts between Asian nations have been persistent for long, but diplomacy has been able to keep a lid on them. However, it is also true that these problems are still unresolved, and they continue to simmer. India and China had a testy border standoff in Doklam a couple of years ago. Though a temporary truce has been worked out, India is uneasy that China will try to achieve its strategic objective by pressuring Bhutan. There is a general unease among the smaller states in Asia that China is always waiting for the opportune moment to strike and achieve its geo-strategic objectives. If China grows stronger and stronger, and the US retreats from the Indo-Pacific further, War does not seem improbable in many theatres in Asia.

Michael Auslin gives many persuasive arguments to temper the euphoria on the 'Asian century' theme. Asian nations may not seek out a more active US involvement in the region, as advised by Auslin. But they sure can consider the five roadblocks for Asia carefully. In the short run, we may continue to hear about China as the new superpower challenging the US and the rise of ASEAN countries and India. However, the problems talked about in this book are likely to manifest within the next ten years. That could bring about a more sobering assessment for the next decades of this century.
Profile Image for Daniel.
606 reviews80 followers
June 24, 2017
Problems and only problems in Asia, the Asian Century is over. That is the premise of this book. It was interesting that the author had lived in Asia for a long time, but when he started to write about the Asian miracle, he ended up writing about its problems instead.

Lack of democracy, low birth rate, historical baggage, weak regional institutions, arm race, and the rise of China, are all problems in Asia. The solution? America will need to contain China by increasing its armed forces in Asia, holding regional security meetings with its allies such as Japan, Korea, Singapore and Australia. Then America must also reach out to counties like Thailand and Vietnam. And America needs to teach Asian countries how to become democracies, and to get involved in trade by confirming the TPP.

Alas, those days are long gone. It is sad that the author is still living in the last century when the West was so much more powerful economically than Asia. I am disappointed that the author, despite living in Asia for so long, still has the colonial mindset. Things are so different now: China is increasingly recognised as the anchor of globalisation, quickly becoming the number one trading partner for many countries all over the world. Trade with central Asia has increased 100 fold over the past 20 years, and China is slowly taking over Hong Kong's financial district.

It is sadly this kind of blindness to the growth and strength of Asia that is going to make Asia (yes, including China) grow even stronger with regards to the West.
Profile Image for David.
Author 26 books165 followers
February 13, 2017
This was a good analysis of the dangers facing Asia in the coming years. However, this book went to press before Brexit occurred, before the election of Trump occurred, and before the Italian referendum occurred. Because of this, the examples and comparisons to Europe are not quite accurate. It may be that 2017 will see the end of the EU. This could mean a great deal of revision to this book will be necessary. Also, this book does not deal with populism and that is a key factor in the world today.

However, what The End of the Asian Century does handle rather well is the five dangers facing Asia in the near-term:

1. The failure of economic reform
2. Demography pressure (low birth-rates...generally in the developed Asian nations)
3. Unfinished political revolutions
4. Lack of regional political community (such as the EU or NAFTA...but both of these, as of writing, are under threat from various forces around the world)
5. Threat of conflict

The analysis of these threats is quite good but the author seems trapped in an ideology (globalization/internationalism) which is rapidly becoming defunct. This could make this book of limited value for most readers interested in the future and most importantly in future investment opportunities.

Still and all, a good book worth the time of those interested in geopolitics.
Profile Image for Dominic.
Author 2 books21 followers
December 24, 2016
During the recently election, candidates talked about Asia's rise as a challenge to the United States. Political pundits and politicians frequently depict the governments of China, Singapore, and Hong Kong as hypercompetent, willing and able to respond to governance challenges in a way that the U.S. cannot. Some, such as former Singaporean diplomat Kishore Mahbubani, have already proclaimed the end of the West and the rise of a new Asian Century.

Michael R. Auslin's new book, "The End of the Asian Century," challenges this conventional wisdom. Asulin, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, argue that Asian weakness poses a greater threat to American interests than Asian strength. Despite Asia's impressive accomplishments during the past few decades, Asia faces a variety of problems that threaten peace and prosperity in the region.

Perhaps the biggest challenge to Asia in the short term is a slowdown in economic growth. As Auslin argues, it extremely unlikely that China and the Asian Tigers will grow so rapidly in perpetuity. Where most American politicians worry about China overtaking America, Auslin argues they should prepare for how the inevitable slowdown will affect the U.S. economy. In addition, there is a risk that Northeast Asia will grow old before it grows rich. Labor costs are already rising in China as the population ages. Meanwhile, countries like Indonesia and India have extremely young populations but not enough jobs. Finally, Auslin discusses how, despite the outward appearance of peace, there is a very real risk of war, especially over competing territorial claims in the South China Sea.

As anybody who studies the Indo-Pacific knows, the region's diversity makes it difficult to even talk about it in broad terms. Auslin certainly acknowledges subregional variations and usually divides his chapters to include separate sections on Japan/Korea, China, India, and Indonesia/Southeast Asia. He doesn't cover Central Asia or the Pacific Islands, except as ancillary to India or Australian, respectively. This also means that the book won't serve as an introduction to Asia. Auslin doesn't take the time to provide extensive background on Myanmar or Japan, so I recommend readers come to the book with some knowledge of Asia.

Auslin offers a useful and necessary corrective to Asian triumphalism, but in international relations the most important dimension of power is relative, not absolute. Asia faces many challenges, but so do other regions. Central and South America remain stuck in the middle-income trap, the Middle East is mired in conflict, and Africa is in no position to become a global leader. Europe faces slow growth and an aging population, just like Japan and Korea. The United States is in a better position and will probably remain the world's de facto leader for years to come, but most Americans are not optimistic about the future. In short, it's entirely possible that the 21st century will be an Asian century by default.

I also wasn't convinced by many of the policies Auslin proposes in the final chapter. Auslin is constrained by ideological assumptions that seem poorly suited to Asia. For example, he argues that Asian democracies and the U.S. should forge an alliance of democracies and promote democracy throughout the region. Yet, Auslin never makes a convincing case for why democracy promotion will enhance regional stability and prosperity, nor why it will promote U.S. interests. To be clear, over the long term, democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others. However, I don't see how criticizing China for human rights abuses will improve our relations with Beijing or resolve our economic/security disagreements. That whole section of the book seems like it was copied and pasted from a neoconservative policy paper rather than based on an understanding of Asia.

For the most part, Auslin seems to know Northeast Asia well. I found his insights into Japan especially valuable. He seems on less certain ground with Southeast Asia. I noticed a few (admittedly small) errors, such as calling Thaksin Shinawatra "president" rather than "prime minister." I read a review copy, so hopefully those mistakes were caught before the book is published.

Overall, I recommend this book for anybody interested in Asia. It's an important reminder for American policymakers that the greatest threats might come from Asia's weakness, not its strengths.

[Note: I received an Advanced Review Copy in exchange for an honest review.]
177 reviews8 followers
August 5, 2017
The dust jacket tells us that Michael Auslin was a faculty member at Yale who now labors for the American Enterprise Institute. This may explain the passage in the book that begins with the observation that when the average American thinks about Asia, he thinks about economic growth. This may be true in New Haven or inside the Beltway, but when the Americans I'm familiar with think about Asia, they are more likely to think of Bruce Lee, Apu from the KwikiMart, Tiger Woods, or General Tso. However, this observation does provide insight into where Professor Auslin is coming from and who the intended audience for this book may be. It's possible that five or six years ago some hedge fund manager told Auslin, "I'm putting all my money in Asia. What could go wrong?" Auslin took that question both seriously and literally and produced this book as the answer.

The message that the author wants to convey is that the predictions of the economic dominance of Asia in general and China in particular may be premature. It turns out that China is more than a billion people trying to steal your job. Who knew? I just threw out that tidbit as a teaser. There are many other insights in this book as to what the other half of the world is up to.

It appears that Professor Auslin wrote the bulk of this volume in 2015 or early 2016. This becomes apparent when he discusses the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) of which he is a big fan and the implementation of which he sees as pretty much a given because who could not understand the benefits involved for everyone but China. Turns out there were many who did not understand and now the paragraphs he devotes to the TPP and its fortunate results read like those passages written in the 1950s that assumed by the early 21st century we would all have flying cars, only more poignant.
Profile Image for Maria.
3,893 reviews100 followers
June 30, 2018
Auslin hypothesis that while from a far the Asian countries of China, India and others look strong enough to over take America and Europe, there are lingering weaknesses that could stop them in their tracks. These include failing economic reforms; demographic issues and ageing populations; Unfinished political revolutions and government corruption; lack of an international community and traditions of treating neighbors as vassals not equals; building for war by competing for island resources.

Why I started this book: Finally figured out the trick to sorting my iTunes books since the update last year...

Why I finished it: Good summary of the concerns and the playing field on the Asian continent. (India thru Japan). This is a much better and nuance argument than the knee jerk, "China is taking our jobs."
Profile Image for Stephen.
408 reviews23 followers
September 14, 2017
The rise of Asia is almost a cliché in current futures work. But what happens if this assumption is wrong? The development of Asia has been a feature of the past half a century, but that spectacular rise has blinded us to the risks that this progress could first halt, and then reverse. A more nuanced approach to Asia would accept this possibility and embrace it. After all, the future is not pre-ordained and we cannot take anything for granted.

The author outlines the case against Asia. In many ways, the vulnerabilities of Asia have their origin in the success of Asia. The more successful the Asian economies become, the more likely their weaknesses will come into view. Professor Auslin identifies five key risk areas:
1. The risk of economic failure owing to crony capitalism and the misallocation of resources, especially investment resources. I found it helpful to divide the Indo-Pacific area into three risk categories - the sluggish (e.g. Japan), the soon to be sluggish (e.g. China), and the vibrant (e.g. Indonesia).
2. The demographic risk of growing old before growing rich. In this case, he usefully divides Asia into three risk categories - the old (e.g. Japan), the becoming old (e.g. China), and the young (e.g. Indonesia).
3. The risk associated with unfinished internal political reform. This risk is viewed as the extent to which the various nations have moved to become liberal-democracies. The range is from the 'democratic' (e.g. India) to the 'autarchic' (e.g. China).
4. The lack of a cohesive international political community. The question here is viewed in the negative - why is there no Asian equivalent of the EU? Why is there such a divergence of nations in Asia? Why is there a general lack of cohesion?
5. The risk of war. This is a recurring factor in the international politics of Asia. There are a number of border disputes, disputes over sovereignty, and historical grievances to keep this risk high in our thinking.
Each of these could, in itself, prove very disruptive to the wider international community, but together, they would have a significant effect upon global affairs.

It is fair to say that these risks are largely hidden from current analysis and ought to be given a higher profile. The recent events on the Korean peninsula demonstrate how fragile the current order could become. The author does make a number of suggestions to manage and reduce the risk in the area, but I found them largely unconvincing. His view appears to be that if the Asian nations were to be more like America, then it would be easier for America to guide the risk. That's almost a truism, but it does not account for a situation where the United States is, itself, a dysfunctional risk factor.

The book was written prior to President Trump's inauguration. It is almost out of date before being published. The author presumes the continued certainty of American policy towards Asia, and did not account for the possibility of a complete change in policy. For example, he takes for granted the passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. I agree with him that this would have been a key element in shaping Asia in the image which suited America. However, by making this assumption, the book does not consider the possibility of the US surrendering the strategic initiative to China. It does not give space to America's Asian allies wondering how reliable their security guarantee might be. It does not alert us to the possibility that the risk in Asia might be increased through the effects of American policy.

The book does, however, give us a framework to view events in Asia and a model by which we can assess how risk increases and decreases. The issue of North Korea is dominating our current thinking, but there are all sorts of unresolved disputes over the sovereignty of various rocks, islands, and reefs that could suddenly become volatile. This could be exacerbated by the twin forces of ethnic conflicts and nationalism, which overlay various historical grievances. Just because the past 50 years have been relatively conflict free does not mean that we can assume that the next 50 years will be conflict free as well.

The book is a useful corrective to a blindspot in our current thinking. The analysis of the causes has much to commend it, as does the analytical framework to interpret events and the model by which risk can be assessed. The prescriptions leave a lot to be desired, but at least we have a vocabulary by which we can discuss the various options.


Profile Image for Lucas.
31 reviews10 followers
April 3, 2021
The book provides valuable insights into Asia's present and future.
A great book for anyone who is looking for an introduction and an opinion about potential outcomes of the region.
1,255 reviews
August 9, 2017
I love books like these, in which a writer takes a sliver of the globe and travels around to the various countries therein, discussing their population, government, geography, etc. Robert Kaplan is the master of this, but Auslin's book should not be considered inferior to his (there's even a Kaplan blurb on the front flap). Granted, Auslin's "sliver" is pretty large, but he still does a good job. His focus is set on East Asia, from India to Indonesia and points north (China, Korea, Japan, but not Mongolia or Russia). He organizes his book by theme, not country, so there is some overlap (how many ways can you express the diversity of India? Quite a few, evidently). He starts with economic prospects, then demography, then political outlook, then regional power politics, then military considerations. He then closes with some recommendations that are pretty anodyne (but also wise): greater American closeness with democratic allies; freer trade; recognition of Chinese malfeasance, especially with intellectual property theft, for example.

Auslin set out to write an optimistic book, but his travels and studies forced him to realize that perhaps optimism is not what is called for. He recognizes great potential, but also great weakness (Chinese political illegitimacy, below-replacement birth levels in China and Japan, inability to stamp out corruption or expand infrastructure in Japan, political weakness in Indonesia, etc.). And of course, some questions hover over everything: what if North Korea decides to get some use out of its nuclear ICBMs? What if China decides to attempt to retake Taiwan by force? What if a hot war breaks out on the India-Pakistan border? Notice that these are all military wild cards--you would think these countries would realize how much they have to lose in going this route, but other considerations will exert a powerful effect.

All in all, a great read. I'd love to read such a work on any region of the world!
Profile Image for Deborah.
Author 10 books57 followers
July 31, 2017
It's naive to super-aggregate a continent as large and diverse as Asia, and it's a bigger mistake to cherry pick the many developments on the continent and use it as an argument for your world view or, worse, why everything is going to be okay and no one needs to worry. I am grateful to Auslin for calling out the overly bullish prognostications of what self-proclaimed experts on Asia see in the mid-term future. While there's plenty of potential, overlooking the obvious weaknesses will make for a shocking wake up call, of the kind the world experienced after the Paper Tigers nearly disintegrated in 1997 and 1998.

There is no one country in the region that is not without a threat of long-term or short-term instability, and the threats are diverse. Environmental degradation, overpopulation, an aging population, a labor glut, a labor shortage, heavy handed dictators, weak central governments, shocking poverty, and wealth imbalances are just a few. Political instability is rife throughout the region, and not only in North Korea; India and China, the two countries Americans most frequently associate with business opportunities in the region, have a long history of tension, both with each other and within their borders.

There has been some discussion in other reviews about the extent to which Asia has taken our jobs. Asia has taken some jobs, but even as manufacturing enjoys a resurgence in this country, the jobs that left are not coming back. However, this isn't due to the underpriced Chinese (or rather Vietnamese, or rather Kyrgysztan...) factory labor or Indian customer service reps; the culprits are instead the robots that American factories are beginning to depend on. (FDR's WPA would employ a fraction of the people today thanks to our much improved technology.) And while robotics and automation may be something of a poison pill in the United States, it may soon become essential for the aging populations of Japan, who don't have enough young people to replace the workers who will be aging out of their workforce. (One wonders if the same may be said soon of South Korea.)

Auslin does an excellent job presenting the threats in his risk analysis. The reason I took off a star is because his writing was off-putting, though I'm having trouble describing how. It was neither too erudite nor disrespectfully conversational, but he seemed to depend on certain phrases and words and after a few chapters it became jarring. I think he (and his editors) were aiming for a middle ground but couldn't quite find it. Otherwise, this is a useful, although now slightly outdated book (e.g., the TPP is no longer in play in the US).
Profile Image for Randall Harrison.
149 reviews
September 12, 2019
This is an excellent book; however, much of the analysis is dated. I wish I had read it when it when first published. The status quo identified in this book has changed so quickly and dramatically that events have overtaken some of the analysis, e.g., US withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, President Trump's folly of multiple meetings with Kim Jong-un, Presient Xi's self-elevation to lifetime rule, the US-China trade war, Japanese-Korean enmity and the cessation of intelligence sharing, etc. I'm sure there are more; those are just the ones I can recall off the top of my head. As a result, some of the predictions are already obsolete two years after publishing, but probably 3-4 years after Auslin submitted his manuscript.

Despite that, it is still a worthwhile read and a great analysis of the long-term, systemic problems facing this important part of the world. Auslin's ideas are still relevant in most cases and his thesis remains generally intact.

I'd love to pick Professor Auslin's brain today and hear his take on recent events in the area. How do they affect his long-term perspective about Asia's future? Do they hasten the end of the Asian century, postpone it indefinitely, or make it impossible to bring about the changes he highlights in the book? If ever there were need for a sequel, this is it.

Please don't let my review discourage you from reading this excellent book. If you question whether or not it's worth reading, just look at the military/political heavyweights who write blurbs on the back cover. That should clearly indicate to a perspective reader the gravitas of the author and the cogency of his analysis. Would have given it a five-star rating had I read it two years ago. Will scour the internet to read what he's saying about today's events in this dynamic and dangerous part of the world.
Profile Image for Nassir.
36 reviews6 followers
December 2, 2017
Gone through Auslin's recent piece titled The End of the Asian Century; War, Stagnation and the Risks to the world's most Dynamic Region. As Micheal Auslin himself puts it that the book is a "risk map" of Asia; a user's guide to the dangers growing in the world's most dynamic and vibrant region and an analysis of what they mean for Asia, the United States, and the rest of the world.
To put it clear, the book is not alarming or predicting instead it is a "diagnostic tool." Besides, a historian Auslin tried to illustrate issues from an American perspective based on historic contemplation. It is upon a Chinese scholar to come up with a precise criticize of the book or an Indian guru or South Korean writer.
But from my point of view, the risks and dangers which the author put will not derail Asia's future and growth. Asia will rise through all pessimism specially when Asian leaders find solutions to the risks and challenges Auslin argues.
I recommend it to young leaders, managers, diplomats, policy makers, journalists, students and scholars.
P.S
Thanks to Muneer Masood Kakar who provided me with this book.
Profile Image for Carlos.
1,946 reviews60 followers
April 19, 2021
Having recently finished Anja Manuel’s “This Brave New World”, which tackles many of the same challenges Auslin envisions for the future prosperity of the Asian region, I was struck by the decidedly pessimistic tone of this book. In contrast with Manuel, who focuses solely on India, China and the US, Auslin focuses on the entire Indo-Pacific region. While he highlights some of the same issues as Manuel, namely demographic and political trends, and their concomitant effects on the economy, that need serious attention, Auslin is much more emphatic on the military conflicts that he sees as imminent. From North Korea, to the disputed islands in the South and East China seas, to Taiwan, Auslin paints the picture of a region ready to blow up at the least provocation. Nonetheless, the book, though a bit alarmist for me, did give the reader a good analysis of the regional trends to keep in mind for the upcoming decades.
Profile Image for Bahram.
12 reviews
January 9, 2018
This book focuses on risk assessment based on five issues: economic stagnation, demographics, unfinished political progress, lack of a political community and the threat of war. Auslin frames properly these challenges and try to fill the analytical gap. For many who might seek some kind of answers from writer to address these obstacles before you close the book in awe its better to pay attention that mapping series of risks is as important as answers which requires separate volume or volumes of works. While the main theme of the book is presence and engagement of United States in the region but we shouldn’t forget ruinous involvement of U.S. in devastating Vietnam Or Korean War. In short book is well written, interesting and present new perspectives to Asiaphoric age.
Profile Image for Andrew Tollemache.
325 reviews21 followers
March 25, 2017
A very interesting book that takes stance that the last 50 years of general Asian political and economic success are heading into a period where more challenges loom than many Westerners appreciate. Austin goes country by country detailing the various challenges facing the key players in the region from Japan's notorious demographic issues to China's stalling economy and developmental projects to Indonesia and India's plans for ascendancy. Austin argues that for all the talk of pivoting to Asia, the US has not really formulated a solid plan to address the changing dynamics in this vital corner of the world.
421 reviews25 followers
November 15, 2020
A solid review of Asian nations and the domestic and international issues they face going forward.
A deep dive into geopolitics for the region along with author Auslin's view of the role America might beneficially play in Asia.

Countering the many positive assessments of the Asian economy, including the climb and stagnation in Japan and the current ascendency of China, Auslin presents a cautionary note. He identified 5 risk factors that face each of the countries from India in the Southwest to Japan and Korea in the Northeast. Those factors are failed economic reform, demographic risk, lack of political community, unfinished political revolutions, and threat of war. He examines these factors with regard to the individual countries and to sub regions of the Indo-Pacific complex.
While he states that his book is not predictive, he makes clear that one or more of these risk factors might cascade into an economic or military conflict affecting multiple Asian countries.

To lower the risk levels he proposes a number of initiatives aimed at fostering cross national ties, to establish the distant cousins of such institutions as NATO and the European Union.

The book is well researched and clearly written. It contains numerous maps and diagrams as well as an index. It is recommended as a serious source of insights into the vast and populous Asian realm and its global economic consequences.
630 reviews
May 15, 2017
Though this book wasn't particularly well written, it was still very interesting. It was very pessimistic concerning the possible future for the Asian continent. The book essentially analyzed the risk and then proposed ways to mitigate and manage the risk. Though I am not convinced that these risks will portend the end of the Asian century, it is enlightening to be aware of the many problems that are facing Asia right now - economically, politically, and militarily.
46 reviews2 followers
October 6, 2020
a fine overview of the wide diversity of asian nations, their prospects for growth, political dominance, liberalization versus authoritarianism, and war. This area has about half the world's population and half the worlds economy so is very important to our future. I can recommend reading this along with H. R. McMaster's "Battlegrounds" for a very comprehensive overview of US foreign policy issues and their history.
Profile Image for Hunter Marston.
339 reviews11 followers
October 20, 2017
Auslin's overview of risk in Asia is a great survey of the region's economic, political, demographic, and societal tensions. It's a very accessible length and tone as well. Recommend to anyone trying to understand Asia right now.
424 reviews6 followers
August 21, 2018
Gives greater understanding about the risks and troubles of Asia. The part about ASEAN resonates (I think ASEAN is rather useless.) Do bear in mind that this book is written and published just before Trump became President of USA.
Profile Image for Vicky.
875 reviews34 followers
March 7, 2019
It was a very interesting read, unfortunately published a couple of years ago. As the world moved on and many new events occurred recently, some of the author's ideas are out-dated and need a new insight and analysis.
Profile Image for Matthew.
599 reviews17 followers
August 3, 2017
A good survey, but the suggestions of how to maintain and buttress stability in the Indo-Pacific are clearly pre-Trump and therefore out of date at best.
Profile Image for Siyuan.
23 reviews1 follower
March 6, 2018
Good Analysis but very American focused. The last chapter is problematic, less analytical/
17 reviews
July 28, 2022
Decent enough book. A lot of the points are useful, but not particularly new even at the time he wrote the book. A good macro look, though some of the details are a bit off the mark.
Profile Image for Paul.
1,042 reviews20 followers
January 26, 2023
A nuanced take on the collapse of China genre. This one takes a broader view of the whole region and doesn't make any bold predictions.
Profile Image for Eddie Choo.
92 reviews5 followers
March 19, 2017
A realist look at the Indo-Pacific region

Auslin provides a holistic view of the developments in the Indo-Pacific. He includes the medium-term view looking at demographics and political institutions - things that are often overlooked in mainstream discourse. The metaphor of map is useful here. I hope more people will read this book and be more even-keel about the challenges that countries face in the Indo/Asia-Pacific.
Profile Image for Benji.
328 reviews37 followers
February 26, 2017
Let's hope the twenty-first century will be a liberal and democratic Asian Century, changing the course of world history for the benefit of all nations.
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