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The Dawn of Eurasia

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1st edn 1st printing. 8vo. Original black lettered grey cloth (Fine), dustwrapper (VG in protective cover, not price clipped). Pp. xix + 281, illus with b&w photos and maps (no inscriptions).

304 pages, Hardcover

First published January 25, 2018

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Bruno Maçães

6 books113 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 76 reviews
Profile Image for Ben Westhoff.
Author 8 books171 followers
November 15, 2020
I was introduced to The Dawn of Eurasia through Tyler Cowen's blog. This book has changed my life, opening up my understanding of (and interest in) geopolitics, in a way that The New York Times and The Economist has never done. The author is a former cabinet member of the Portuguese government, and knows what's actually happening behind the scenes in governments all over the world, what, say, Russia's actions towards Turkey, or China, or Ukraine really mean. There's lots about China, Europe, India, and Central Asia, but the most interesting stuff (and, really, the bulk of the book) is about Russia. I'd long thought of Russia as a fallen power, but The Dawn of Eurasia shows just how central the country will be in determining the new world order. You don't have to be a policy wonk to appreciate this book, which makes me want to travel the world, learn about distant cultures, and soak up life.
Profile Image for Saadia  B..
184 reviews74 followers
August 2, 2021
After the end of the Second World War, all European states were forced to recognize, once and for all, that they were no longer world powers and that there on the international stage would have to remain in the shadow of United States. The Eurasian chessboard engages three key players, located on the board's west, east and centre. The centre player Russia cannot be discussed without taking into account the powerful dynamics that make it oscillate between the twin poles of Europe and Asia - like the double headed imperial eagle of its state emblem, looking in opposite directions at once.

Eurasian integration takes different meanings for China, Russia and European Union. One of the main reasons, Eurasia is emerging as an integrated space is the rise of great powers, whose ambitious interests go much beyond their borders and intersect in increasingly complex patterns. The rise of Chinese power goes together with growing Russian ambitions and the halting movement towards political union in Europe. To this complex system one must add the inevitable arrival of India as a great power later in this century, adding a fourth key player in the south, without forgetting the role of Japan and the growing ability of Iran to project its power outwards.

As China keeps rising it inevitability sees its global role as a geopolitical condominium with the United States, where the two countries gradually approach parity in all dimensions of international power and start to share responsibilities for managing the global order. Each of these three key players is almost forced by its particular brand of abstract political concepts to look for the widest possible application. This new universal spirit is not that of philosophers, writers or artists rather it is the spirit of economics, technology and technological progress which pushes us to larger and larger scales, and more and more impersonal formulae, particularly collapsing all sense of physical distance.

Each of main actors play a specific role in the emergence of the new world order. The Silk Road Economic Belt focuses on bringing together China, Central Asia, Russia and Europe across the Eurasian landmass. It is no coincidence that the land component is called an economic belt: a road is just a transport link between two points, a belt is a densely occupied economic corridor for trade, industry and people. The Maritime Silk Road is designed to go from China's coast to Europe through the South China and the Indian Ocean in one route, and from China's coast through the South China Sea to the South Pacific in the other. At sea, the initiative will focus on building smooth, secure and efficient transport routes connecting major sea ports.

Together, the land and sea components will strive to connect about 65 countries. The preferred abbreviation in China for the combined project is unsurprisingly - the Belt and Road. Over the past two decades it became progressively clearer for the Russian leadership that integration with Europe would have to be multipolar, and that the European Union should not aspire to be more than one pole in a much larger integration project. Eurasia has become for Russia a way to ensure the necessary space to develop its own unique civilization, avoiding the scenario where it would remain closed off from China to the east and subject to the gradual encroachment of an expanding European Union to the west. Politics in Russia can be precisely defined as the management of chaos.

The biggest strategic question facing a rising China is not the development of the Eurasia landmass but instead the struggle for power in the seas and economies of the Pacific region where it faces direct opposition from its great rival across the ocean. The Pacific is mostly water. American decision-makers seem increasingly aware that the new centre of gravity in world politics is not the Pacific and not the Atlantic but what lies between the two. Back to land.

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Profile Image for TJS.
78 reviews5 followers
January 6, 2019
The author, a former Portuguese diplomat, political science PhD and think-tank habitué, travels to remote and sometimes dangerous places east of Poland and west of China, parts of the world one doesn't think much about. His travel descriptions and encounters with people are remarkable.

Who knew that there's now a direct train line between the city of Yiwu, China, located near Shanghai on the Pacific coast, and Madrid? Or that this little-known city, which calls itself "Yuwi International Trade City," produces one-quarter of the world's toys and two-thirds of its Christmas decorations?

"There is an Arab district and a Turkish district and and Indian district in Yiwu." Because it's so cosmopolitan, "every disturbance registered a continent away is immediately registered here." Yiwu's merchants knew that President Trump would win when no one in the U.S., including Trump himself, thought he would. That's because "a number of flag manufacturers and sellers in Yiwu and commented that orders coming from the United States for Trump flags far exceeded those for Hillary Clinton."

Maçães travels to Astrakhan and Samosdelka, two cities I hadn't heard of. "Astrakhan, in southern Russia, has kept some of its identity as the connector of major civilizations. . . . [¶] Today, Astrakhan is just as cosmopolitan: Christians, Muslims and Buddhists co-exist peacefully." Curious about Samosdelka, I Googled it and found there's a luxury hotel there! But for Maçães, Samosdelka is interesting as the possible site of the lost city of Itil, "the capital of the Khazar empire [and] Europe's last lost city." To repeat, it's remarkable. Who knew? I didn't.

No book is perfect, and Maçães seems to run out of energy toward the end of this one. In the chapter on Turkey, Maçães makes the startling claim that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's Turkey is indeed menaced by a vast and deeply rooted conspiracy engineered by Erdoğan's bête noire, the Pennsylvania-based imam Muhammed Fethullah Gülen. Whether that's true or not I don't know, but Maçães bases his claim on a single source, a journalist whom he met with in Istanbul. That's too Thomas Friedman-esque for my palate. On page 221, Erdoğan's name is misspelled twice as "Ergoğan."

Nevertheless, this is an amazing book, highly recommended. After reading it, I want to visit that part of the world. Luckily, at this writing Turkish Airlines flies nonstop from San Francisco to Istanbul, a good place to start.
Profile Image for Stephen.
435 reviews23 followers
August 11, 2020
A key precursor to the study of the future is to have a decent understanding of the past and present. This is one of those books that can help you with this. We may have an understanding of the Belt & Road Initiative (BRI), but do we have a wider context in which we can place it? If the influence of China is to spread westwards across Asia, then how does Russia fit into this? And what of the former Asian imperial powers? Iran? Turkey? India? These are interesting questions that this book addresses.

The book starts by trying to find where Europe ends and where Asia begins. This is not as easy as it sounds. The distinction highlights the background and upbringing of the beholder. For someone like me, the dividing line has been arbitrarily placed at the Ural Mountains. However, that places Azerbaijan in Europe, which has a distinctly awkward feel about it. The point is made that any dividing line will be arbitrary in nature because there is no clear place at which Europe ends and Asia begins.

Perhaps it might be beneficial to think of the whole area as a single landmass? To view Eurasia as a separate entity? There is a case here as the economies and societies in this landmass start to integrate. China is onto something with the BRI. This is a policy to further accelerate this process of integration. It makes a lot of sense. However, the question arises of who will set the agenda for this process?

It's obvious that China believes that it has a central role. But what do the others think? Interestingly enough, this process gives Russia a role in the post-Soviet world and explains much about the way in which Russia has behaved in recent years. Whilst Europeans have been anxious about Ukraine, Russian attention has been focused further south and further east. It is almost as if Russia has turned its back on Europe and has decided to become an Asiatic nation.

Something similar could be said about Turkey. For decades Turkey tried to gain acceptance in European circles and was rebuffed. Many Turks now see their future eastwards rather than westwards, especially as China tries to lure them into it's circle of influence through the BRI. This means that something of the Chinese system has rubbed off onto Turkey, placing further distance between it and Europe.

Europe occupies the far end of the Eurasian landmass. Important in historical terms, but uncertain about the future. The European Union has achieved a degree of cohesion, but is no longer looking outwards. Increasingly it is creating a siege economy with a focus of keeping outsiders from Europe and European wealth within it. Over the long term, this is not a recipe for success.

Where, we might ask, is America in all of this? Bluntly, it isn't. As America gives in to its isolationist cravings, so the rest of the world is content to allow this to happen. America is still an indispensable nation, but less so than it used to be. This is a feature that might dominate our affairs in the coming decades because there is every sign that America will not fade away gracefully. The ultimate threat to America is the BRI. Very few Americans know this. President Trump has merely accelerated an existing trend.

I quite liked this book. It's insightful and it's possible to learn a lot from it. The style is not academic, but it's not an easy read either. The reader has to maintain their attention and it's easy to miss something important. If the reader is looking for a very wide overview of near future geopolitics, this is a really useful starting point.
Profile Image for GramsciFanboy.
13 reviews
July 17, 2023
Maçães describes his view of international relations theory as falling somewhere between Fukuyama and Huntington which pretty much sums up the nature of the "groundbreaking" analysis he provides in this book.

The book is a surface-level overview on changing power dynamics on the Eurasian landmass told through the author's personal experiences traveling through the Caucasus, Central Asia, China & Russia. Maçães is a former Portuguese diplomat and EU technocrat. He has some interesting insight into places that rarely receive mainstream attention -- his description of traveling across the Caspian Sea from Baku to Turkmenbashi and encountering Azerbaijan's floating oil cities was especially captivating -- and correctly identifies that the Eurasian system is returning to a relatively more natural & balanced state with the rise of China and India. I thought he also had a valid point re: China, Russia, and the EU increasingly attempting to utilize the idea of "Eurasia" to alter the world system to suit their own interests.

However, the conclusions he draws from this shift are grounded in a Eurocentric and constructivist perspective that I don't find convincing. The central argument he makes is that Europeans -- by virtue of their own ingenuity during the Enlightenment, lol -- managed to surpass their Eurasian neighbors. This created a "divide" between advanced European society and everyone else on the Eurasian landmass, whom are now catching up. I'm not going to take the time to pick apart this argument, but it's a pretty outdated view of world history that completely ignores material & geographical factors, as well as luck, that played a much more important role in the separation between Europe and "the rest" that started in the 16th century.

This view of history influences most of his analysis. He uses language dripping in techno-orientalism to claim that Chinese society is absorbing the "European" ideal of technology and progressing into something more "advanced", authoritarian, and -- as he insinuates -- sinister. There is also a weird section where he (probably unintentionally?) parroted Ukrainian far-right and nationalist rhetoric to claim that Russians cannot claim the "viking" Kievan Rus as their ancestors.

Maybe the concept of a single Eurasian system was something new and radical in 2016, but ultimately Maçães fails to bring anything really thought-provoking to the table, and mainly recycles well-worn and annoying tropes. Africa isn't mentioned at all, which is weird. I did learn more about the Caucasus and Central Asia which I appreciated, so I'd recommend skipping to the second section where Maçães starts writing about his travels.
Profile Image for Michael.
438 reviews2 followers
June 6, 2019
I wanted to read at least one of Mr Macaes' books after hearing him at a couple of sessions at the Adelaide Writers Week talk about China's belt and road and the turning to the East of Europe. This book came about after he traveled through Asia for several months a couple of years back. He learned all he could about China's push to expand economically with trade to Europe, West Asia and Africa by investing in the infrastructure to make rail shipments across to Europe, which will cut shipping times drastically. He also discovered that China is making big inroads in technological fields, especially digital by bringing the digital and physical worlds closer together. The most innovative advances in China are being developed by banks, insurance companies and big factory farms, not internet or computer companies. He also speaks of the growing ties between Russia and China, with growing trade and more border crossings opening up and how both countries are courting Turkey, and other middle eastern countries to look eastward for trade and development. He concludes the book by examining the initial speeches of President Trump. Right from his inaugural speech by what it left out - a lack of appeal to universal principals of freedom, democracy and equality. And how his utterances about governing are more in line with the thinking in China and Russia, then western democracies. I was rather surprised at the ideas he espouses in this book being a former fellow at the Hudson and the American Enterprise Institutes. You may not agree with everything in this book, but you will learn about where Europe, Russia and China and other Asian countries are heading.
Profile Image for Lalitha.
80 reviews22 followers
April 28, 2018
Nothing against the book but the subject is a dry one. I was lent this book by a colleague at work. It was only polite to read the book.

The author talks about the weakening of the economic superiority of the western world with a rising face of new policies in the east. Consequently he espouses the need to have the idea of "eurasia" which shall blend the strengths of both regions. He then proceeds to understand economic growth in China, the position of Russia - is it western or Asian and Turkey's role as the western most frontier of Asia. The author seems to have done a lot of research in this field and has travelled quite extensively to glean his data. I liked the fact that the book included pictures of remote places and villages which are of geographic importance but just not yet.

On the whole, I like that I have read a book that I would not pick up but this only reinforced my belief why I pick only certain genres.
Profile Image for Dan Sumption.
Author 9 books35 followers
October 13, 2018
One of the most fascinating books I've read in a long time. Political scientist and former Portuguese Europe Minister, Bruno Maçães, journeys through China, Russia, Khazakstan, Turkmenistan and more, pondering the future of the Eurasian supercontinent. He ridicules the notion of Europe and Asia as separate continents (apparently the distinction arose because sailors had to circumnavigate Africa to get to Asia), and talks at length about the rise of China, its plans to reinstate the Silk Road as a high-speed freight railway (the "Belt and Road"), and the response of "island" Russia, caught between a resurgent China and a stagnating European Union. I learnt a huge amount from this book, and it gave me a clearer impression of the likely future for Europe, Russia and China than any of the (many) other politics & economics books I've read lately.
Profile Image for Carlos Vasconcelos.
Author 1 book16 followers
February 1, 2018
Interesting. Read this book if the subject matters to you.
Can't give it 5 stars because it does get repetitive and the author sometimes goes for some unecessary fact "show off" that doesn't get the arguments anywhere.
Profile Image for Linda.
Author 32 books152 followers
February 4, 2019
Fascinating analysis of power, culture and economic relations in the context of an historical and future Eurasia - this book has reshaped the way I think about the region that stretches from Europe to China.
Profile Image for Ignacio Izquierdo.
293 reviews28 followers
March 5, 2020
De primeras este libro lo tenía todo para encantarme, pues une un análisis de geopolítica centrado en Europa y Asia y su inevitable fusión en un nuevo continente con un relato de viajes precisamente buscando la frontera difusa e inexistente entre ambos continentes. Sin embargo, me ha costado muchísimo terminarlo y si no lo he dejado a un lado ha sido por puro orgullo. Quizás sea porque el libro se limita a repetir una y otra vez los mismo conceptos pero se me ha hecho tremendamente tedioso, aburrido y sin una idea clara de que estaba leyendo y para que. Me quedaré con algunas ideas interesantes, pero se pueden resumir en muchísimas menos páginas.
Profile Image for Cristian.
120 reviews
July 17, 2018
Blown away by the many original thoughts on current global & metapolitical issues. Looking at the crisis of the western world though the lens of the ascension of Asia is not completely new, but I've never read it in such a thorough execution. Macaes viewpoint may be European by birth, but his outlook is definitely Eurasian. It also helps that it is very well written, especially the Robert D. Kaplan-like travelogues. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Sultan khattak.
21 reviews10 followers
September 18, 2019
If you want to understand the interdependency amongst Europe, Russia, and Asia, you will find the opinions and ideas in this book very helpful.
Profile Image for Adam Ellsworth.
35 reviews1 follower
December 23, 2018
A very thought-provoking book exploring the challenges and opportunities in the increasing integration between Europe and Asia.
My largest nitpick is just that I would have liked to see a little more in-depth analysis, with more specific examples of the differences between the way different cultures approach and think about geopolitical interactions with each other. This is discussed mainly on an abstract level, and it is fascinating, but some more concrete examples would have been nice (this is probably less the fault of the author and more the fault of my own slow brain).
Any recommendations for other titles that would be good in better understanding the above?
Profile Image for Jack Carver.
4 reviews
October 16, 2019
Mr. Macaes book blends travelogue with geopolitical analysis in a manner that seems to have irked some readers. I concede that I once counted myself among those irked. The book's first quarter I read with skepticism and it was after a lengthy hiatus that I endeavored to read on. As I did so the nature of the author's conception became apparent, and I quickly found myself entranced with this wonderful tale of the currents of today and the world of tomorrow.

Allow me to first explain this initial skepticism before setting forth my grounds for its emphatic dismissal. The ostensible topic of Mr. Macaes' book is the growing interconnectedness between the historic poles of the Eurasian landmass, an interconnectedness that is social and cultural but principally economic. A reader could reasonably expect such a thesis to be buttressed by facts and figures, trendlines and projections. That expectation is dashed when we instead find in The Dawn of Eurasia the musings of dressmakers from the Caucuses and professors from countries glossed over in geography class exhorting the importance of national myths.

Dashed expectations often leave the expecting with a feeling of insult, a sense that the expectation was correct and an approach at odds with it therefore incorrect. This was, in any event, the case with respect to my first encounters with The Dawn of Eurasia. What followed were attempts to reassert the correctness of my expectation: sure, I thought, these anecdotes are interesting, many anecdotes are. But arguments reliant on them are reliant on their selection among an infinity of choices, and tendentious selection can create an infinity of narratives.

I read on nonetheless and began to see the sparsity of data and the richness of anecdote from a new perspective, a perspective still not aligned with my expectation but one that seemed to permit glimpses of deeper truths. For the bald fact of the growing integration of Eurasia is indeed not the subject of this book. Such a book would in fact offer little but truisms to readers who see the pace and nature of the globalization everywhere they look, in light of which the integration of Eurasian powers is an obvious and inexorably corollary. What is far more interesting is the outlook of the parties that find themselves in varying degrees agent of and subject to this integration.

Put differently, the integration itself is certain while its nature, by virtue of its dependence on the all too human features the participants bring with them, remains uncertain. The critical question then becomes: what are these features? The contemporary Westerner, Macaes asserts, believes that these features are those that have come to govern their own societies. Adherents of today's Western neoliberalism see their worldview as not only incorporating what the chaos and violence of their 20th century experience taught them but also rightly reflecting what it should have taught the entire global order. The core of this teaching seems to be that whatever neoliberalism's failings, it promises the best hope to avoid the destruction visited upon their societies by the zero-sum, emotionally resonant, will to power colored worldviews of the last century.

Europe's faded prominence relative to other Eurasian powers, however, means that though evangelize and teach they may the adoption of such teachings is no longer in their control. This point, Macae argues, seems not fully appreciated by Eurozone bureaucrats who, historically accustomed to holding the strings of global power, are not in the practice of rigorously checking their assumptions against the beliefs of non-European parties whose beliefs have only recently begun to matter.

That this multipolar world was inaugurated only recently is in the end immaterial, however. What is important today are two fundamental, related questions. First, is the Eurozone assumption that today's non-Western great powers share the values, even if not the implementation, of neoliberalism accurate? Second, what are the implications for Europe and the West at large if these powers do not share these values, but instead hold other values and worldviews that may not only resemble those of Europe's bad old days but also offer their adherents unique strengths and advantages?

Answering the first question brings us back to the primacy of anecdotes and testimonies in the Dawn of Eurasia. Mr. Macaes implies that this question can be answered no other way, and in the final analysis I found myself convinced of this at well. You cannot find a worldview in charts and graphs. To expect to do so or worse determine that if you cannot it means it must not matter would be a grave failing, a failing likely attendant to reliance on overly technocratic methodologies sadly too often seen in Brussels. Worldviews, existing alone in the minds of people, are rather revealed in the text and subtext of revealed human words and human actions.

The most striking case from the book in this regard is doubtlessly found in the sections devoted to China. Chinese obfuscation and the inherent imprecision of assessing worldviews makes this a challenging task and one that requires some trust be granted Mr. Macaes. Accepting that, the clear outlines of a Chinese worldview deeply at odds with the neoliberal global order becomes apparent. I will not compete with Mr. Macaes excellent portrayal of the contours of this worldview beyond a few broad strokes.

Dubious Chinese assertions of their desire to only foster win-win situations on a global scale notwithstanding, the Chinese world picture seems to be as follows. The Chinese mind envisions a world where lesser Eurasian powers are offered indubitably advantageous economic arrangements with China, without the Western human rights or reform strings attached that are often perceived as interference. In doing so, China often offers local industry the opportunity to develop with Chinese loans and eventually participate in global supply chains and promises to bring a bigger picture, more holistic approach than American corporations hostage to shareholders.

So far, so good; it is not difficult to understand why so many Eurasian powers have been open to Chinese investment already. But those that have accepted this investment have learned that while it may have came without the formal strings of the West, it is in no way unencumbered. In all such relations China maintains a preeminence carefully guarded and absolute. Mr. Macaes hearkens back to similar arrangements in dynastic China where lesser powers paid China annual tributes. These tributes were part of an arrangement in which China offered tangible benefits to the lesser power, but they were in no way a capitalistic exchange of payment between parties. The serf pays, the vassal provides; a system of obligation the terms of which are established by the more powerful party.

Now, such an arrangement is not unique to Chinese history and I don't believe Mr. Macaes believes the historical parallel to be precise. Nonetheless, the "too good to be true" deals offered by China are often just that, and the privilege enjoyed by China is not limited to economics but also intrudes into other dimensions of national sovereignty such as holding political positions at odds with Chinese sacred cows such as the status of Hong Kong and Taiwan and the treatment of the Uigurs.

The Dawn of Eurasia contains many similar examples from China as well as other worldview variant powers such as Russia and Turkey. To address the second question posed above, however, it is sufficient to remain on the subject of Eurasia's new superpower, China. What does it mean for Europe and the West to share global space with a competitor that thinks not in terms of the next quarter's economic results but rather regards itself as a civilizational power asserting civilizational interests? Whose citizens regard themselves not as economic actors in a global rules based system but members of a historically great people, possessing what a quoted Chinese student called a unique "sense of psychological identity" they will sacrifice to not only protect but globally assert?

The answer seems ineluctable. And with it the equally clear path forward, despite the wish of neoliberalism to never see such a world return. Mr. Macaes speaks with Chinese who state that with respect to conflict the Chinese ideal is to win before the opponent even knows they are fighting. The time has come to recognize a fight has begun and to accept that it won't be governed by contemporary European values and ideals. While a true return to the belligerency of the European great power days must be carefully avoided, so must care also be taken to not attempt to compete on a global stage against a coherent civilization without being one oneself.
Profile Image for Manish.
813 reviews50 followers
March 1, 2022
This book was written in 2018. But Maacaes' predictions about the faultlines in Ukraine and the possibilities of a conflict were spot on. I read this in February, a few days before Putin went beserk. COuldn't help but marvel at the insights.
Profile Image for Jim Coughenour.
Author 4 books183 followers
August 6, 2018
Maçães’s book had the salutary effect, at least while I was reading it, of inverting my usual perspective. Reading The Dawn of Eurasia I had the strong sense of observing world events from the periphery, not the center. Of course there is no center, or there are several. In Maçães’s view, there is the US, off to one side - then China, Russia and the EU, this trio being the salient aspects of the emerging “supercontinent” of Eurasia. Like the old geography exercise of turning the world map upside down, this perspective provokes us to consider obvious facts that we’ve easily overlooked.

It’s also a book that, once begun, finds echoes everywhere. The Economist just published an issue on “Planet China” and its Belt and Road initiative; last week The Guardian published a colorful series on the New Silk Road; and Maçães himself has popped up here and there pointing out the possible promise of Brexit (the UK as a new Hong Kong or Singapore) or opining about the “Trump doctrine.” The Dawn of Eurasia is less streamlined, following Maçães for 6 months as he meanders across Eurasia, talking to all manner of characters who exist, more or less, to substantiate his talking points. His excurses are never less than interesting, and less fevered than the apocalyptic travels of Robert Kaplan.

World generalizations require a grain of salt, but here are a couple to savor:
Returning to Europe after a visit to China feels akin to stepping back in time, to a world where cash, email and business cards are still in use. Europeans have grown accustomed to new forms of social and technological conservatives, a widespread resistance to change which everywhere raises its head, often under harsh regulatory inquisition, while Asia seems addicted to change, often for its own sake. (117)

Stripped of appearances, every Russian discussion, and every division in society, is a discussion and a division about history rather than politics. (175)

European politicians tend to appeal to rules and values to which political power must subject itself, while in Russia it is much more common and natural to appeal, not to rules, but to a power capable of establishing and enforcing them. . . . Since power needs the latent presence of chaos as a source of legitimacy, then chaos itself is legitimized and, ironically, may even be celebrated. (194, 195)

Maçães’s book may be “unashamedly Centre right” (as one reviewer phrased it); books like this, it seems, generally are. That’s fine. Any reader, right or left, will benefit from its critical perspective. I also appreciated the author’s reference to a range of Russian, Japanese, Chinese, Korean and Mongolian novels, most of them dystopian. But if this is the dawn, you can’t blame Europeans for hoping to head back into a more welcoming night.
Profile Image for Will James.
15 reviews14 followers
April 25, 2020
In Bruno Macaes’ first book Dawn of Eurasia, Macaes opens with the premise that global political relations of the 21st Century will be characterised by a world order in which there are multiple civilizational centres of economic, political and cultural power, namely, China, Europe, India, Russia, all with their own unique geopolitical constraints and ambitions, value systems, concepts of order and modernity, existential struggles and contradictions. In doing so he dispels two commonly held assumptions: that the future will simply be characterised as either Asian or American, and that non-Western states are either progressing towards the ideals of liberalism or they are turning their noses up at the ‘the end of history’ as it were. Regressing some might say.

This particular way of thinking about global relations is quite literally locked in the liberal world view, unable to see other ways of thinking about modernity after the Cold War that seemed to conclude that there were no other options other than that of liberalism. The perception has a Manichean quality to it, in which states around the world are understood and judged only through the purview of them being either liberal, or not to standard. The only standard.

What Macaes sets out to do in his first book, quite literally in the spirit of adventure, travelling around Eurasia, interacting with different civilisations, is to break out of the our familiar mindset, to recognise that civilisations need to be understood on their own terms, before we make any key decisions on the pressing questions regarding the future direction of Western states.

On the one hand, this seems kind of obvious to anyone who has taken their time to try and understand cultural differences in faraway lands on a fundamental level. Different peoples think differently about the world. Unfortunately, it seems that in politics, at least where I come from (UK), academics, journalists, politicians and officials have struggled to break free from traditional liberal dichotomies. As such, those who wield power are at risk of acting against a backdrop of dangerous fantasies about world order at the expense of those they govern.

We must learn about other civilisations as much as we can on their own terms. Doing so will help us navigate a world that is not on a linear progression towards liberal modernity, but a world in which there are multiple, conflicting paths, sometimes trailing through very different landscapes. What makes this so urgent is not the mere fact that the world order is becoming increasingly multipolar, it is that, given the nature of globalisation, these civilizational poles that have their own unique conceptions of order and modernity, will be interacting on levels never seen before in history. It is a world that needs to be smartly navigated, not one that should be attempted to change.
142 reviews6 followers
August 1, 2018
From his vantage point – about as west as you can get on mainland Europe – the author, in this ambitious geopolitical travelogue, casts his glance from one side of the sprawling mass that is ‘Eurasia’ to the other. Informing his prognostications, amongst other varied geopolitical type appointments, is his experience as Portugal’s ‘Europe Minister’. The book certainly takes the reader to, what is likely to be – at least to the great majority, I suspect – little known and far-flung places, attempting to trace the nascent super-continent’s ‘centre of gravity’. As such the reader would be well advised to have at hand a world atlas: even though the published market addition has maps at the beginning, the proof copy hasn’t and this reader, at least, found it, if slightly awkward, an indispensable accessory!

The format is part travelogue, part geopolitical history, essentially providing, respectively, interwoven worm’s and bird’s eye views, the former arising from interviewing indigenous members of various exotic sounding populations along the way; the latter, from his own education and experience, sprinkled, sporadically by aphoristic, anecdotal seasoning in the form of quotes from a variety of past and present ‘Eurasian’ worthies.

And gradually, we begin to see the world in a different way, removed from the Mercator projection etched into Western minds by years of, largely, not very creative and imaginative formal education, made even more so by national curricular. How often, for example, do we recall that Russia and America are only a couple of hundred miles or so apart if we stop to consider their respective eastern and western boundaries?

Despite being somewhat ‘stodgy’ in parts – mainly when travelling in ‘worm mode’, it’s certainly a book that provides food for a great deal of thought and should warrant more than one reading over the course of the next few years, in order to get the most from it.
Profile Image for Adrian.
251 reviews25 followers
October 10, 2018
Bruno Macaes's work, for this reader at least, struck the perfect balance between political analysis and travelogue. It kept focus entirely upon the central theme, the political and cultural emergence of a Eurasian supercontinent as a reality in global politics and economics, regardless of cultural preconceptions.
Macaes demonstrates the overwhelming connectivity between Europe and Asia, and how the traditional demarcations are becoming more and more porous. Macaes devotes considerable attention to Russia as a revisionist power, and rightly so, as Russia is shown to be a wounded power with an identity crisis that is revising the global order to suit its own position.
Other notable insights are the coverage of China's Belt and Road initiative as a massive global infrastructure campaign that essentially ties economies to China's orbit, and Turkey as the quintessential bridge to Eurasia, and why policy makers should take Turkey more seriously.
The final chapter looks at the divisions within Europe, in many ways a sobering experience which dampens ones confidence in Europe itself, even if one is (like this reader) pro-European.
A very well researched, coherent and readable piece that is entirely relevant, informative and to the point. An essential read.
Profile Image for Ryan.
44 reviews1 follower
June 18, 2019
Read this on the strength of Tyler Cowen's recommendation. It was a frustrating read. The author makes grand claims with few sources or evidence to back them up. He casually attributes attitudes, belief systems and ideas to some of the largest countries in the world as if their people, institutions and leaders were homogenous beings. He weaves in vague and sweeping claims about the nature of international politics which lack any precision or falsifiability. When he is making halfway believable arguments, they're unfocused and don't line up into a clear narrative. I'm not sure how someone who has worked at the centre of government and who has a PhD in government could write a book with so little rigour.

The bits where he travels aren't half bad, and he does visit some interesting places. I learned a few things, so I guess two stars is a generous rating.
Profile Image for Jonny.
278 reviews
March 10, 2019
Another example of someone with interesting ideas on Twitter not carrying that through into a good book. Macaes has interesting narrative patches (mainly around Russia’s relationship with Europe and Asia, which are more developed than his reporting on Turkey and China) but there’s no sense of a coherent whole.

Ultimately this boils down to the fact that Europe and Asia make up a single land mass, and globalisation will keep promoting closer political and economic links between them, which will be difficult to manage. I’m impressed that he managed to get funding to travel round the two continents to keep reiterating that point, but the book itself doesn’t really move the argument along.
15 reviews3 followers
October 29, 2019
I read this a while ago, based on a recommendation on tyler cowen's blog. To say I was disappointed would be an understatement.

Most of the points seem poorly argued, the writing is rather dry, and I found the main thesis unconvincing. It sounds like a lot of typical "big ideas" intellectuals with little depth, writing about a subject with little actual research, and mostly based on a few observations made during his travels.

I don't get the praise of the book at all: all I can think is that it tackles a major topic (east rise, especially China) from a slightly unusual angle for westerners.
Profile Image for Ben Davies.
25 reviews
May 28, 2018
A interesting first delve into the topic of super-continental geopolitics. The author does a great job of covering the high level desires and motivations for the key players in the region and the likely roles they would like to play.
If you’re interested in what the the history of the next 100 years could be then this is well worth a read.
Profile Image for Ralph Roosmalen.
Author 4 books5 followers
October 28, 2018
Tough read. I had to force myself to finish the book. It gave some nice insights but that could have done with half of the pages. Furthermore, I was missing a clear story line, specially at the end. Many pages about the European refugees crises, where I could not link it to the previous topics.
Profile Image for Paulo Lopes.
10 reviews
May 13, 2018
With this book, Macaes shows the path for Europe to have a future.
Profile Image for Ronit.
126 reviews9 followers
January 22, 2019
Part travelogue and part scholarly analysis, the author makes the argument that the future of the world does not belong to Europe or Asia. It is part of a new slew of books which brings to the forefront the growing importance of Asia in the world. The difference here being the author's advocacy of a Eurasian world. He begins the book by discussing where the idea of Europe came from. Europe was always defined in opposition to Asia, the other, though there is no natural frontier truly dividing these two continents. From there he moves on to talk about the greater integration happening in this new world. This is leading to divergent beliefs on how the world should function which is feeding into certain conflicts. For example, while the European Union wants to use this inter-dependency to create common institutions, Russia sees it as a set of vulnerabilities to be taken advantage of. An undercurrent running throughout the book is the author's worries about how Europe should be dealing with this new situation. Europe's turn inwards leaves it increasingly vulnerable with these forces of change. The author wants it to turn to more actively to a project of Eurasian integration to combat the forces of disintegration within Europe itself.

I particularly enjoyed the chapter on China. It gives a different spin on the recent belt and road initiative of China. By actively funding different countries of the world China is attempting to get them to focus on agriculture and other low-tech industries (Ex-Pakistan) while itself shifting into higher-value sectors. The Chinese populace also sees these initiatives as a way to inculcate mutual trust, reciprocity and co-operation amongst its neighbours. But as the author warns, it also includes an implicit appeal to Chinese ideas of a hierarchical system where China enjoys a special place. "A moralized notion of international politics will mean that values such as loyalty, gratitude and friendship can easily translate into relations of dependency, and where reprisals for charting an independent path are part of Chinese foreign policy." It was also surprising to realize the high tech nature of daily life in China (or for that matter in other East Asian countries) which is fueled by a need to catch up with the west. Entire high tech cities are being built overnight. They recently built the city of Khorgas near the Kazakhstan border in 3 years and it already has a population of 200,000. Such mega-cities show the radical changes happening in China which are not being discussed nowadays. It also shows the vulnerabilities such projects might bring about due to their security situation, a case in point being the heightened security in Xinjiang with their innumerable checkpoints and the 15,000 policemen recently recruited by Pakistan to protect its Chinese investments. It also discusses Russia, Turkey, European Union etc. in like manner.

I liked the book enough but it does tends to get slightly repetitive at times. Also, not as readable as some other books I have read in this genre. I was going to give up after the 1st chapter but continued as Niall Ferguson had recommended it. Was rewarded with some interesting insight later.
Profile Image for Dennis.
366 reviews41 followers
March 21, 2019
I would love to give this 4.5 stars if I could. It's a really elegantly written commentary on the prospects of integration in the future among the nations that span the super continent of Europe and Asia. The author travels from the Caucuses and Ural Mountains to the edge of Asia, and then back to the bridge that spans from Europe to Asia in Istanbul. He meets with locals in Kazakhstan, Russia, Turkey, China, and others and gets the scoop both on the ground and in the heights of the political elite to determine the strategies being employed to stake out positions for the future.

One interesting phenomenon is the Belt and Road project, an initiative with China at the helm, which is creating transportation infrastructure and economic zones along borders to create a closer trade system with Asian values at the core. The author describes Khorgas, an instant city on the western frontier of China along the border of Kazakhstan that aspires to become an inland port of the magnitude of Dubai.

The chapter on Russia was a bit tedious, although it was important to note the internal conflict the Russians struggle with about whether their identity is European or Asian. Essentially they wish to remain both. They don't wish to succumb to European values what with its obsession with rules, rules rooted in European thinking. On the other hand, Russia recognizes its waning influence over former Soviet republics such as Kazakhstan which is adamant about preventing Russian power to return. Russia's view is to return to a world system in which nation states compete against one another for power, vis-a-vis the European ideal of a world eventually governed by a supranational state akin to the European Union, governed by technical algorithms developed by Europeans.

The problems associated with the existing European and Asian views is highlighted by the recent refugee crisis in which Turkey held the key to stemming the flows of migrants from Asia to Europe. Only when Europe worked out a deal with Turkey did the numbers return to more manageable levels.

The final chapters focus on the surprising developments in the West, most notably the election of Donald Trump to the presidency in America and the popular vote supporting Brexit. Both have created enormous doubt about the ongoing European project, and at the same time reveal growing anxieties about the growth of power in Asia. The author posits the idea of Britain once extracted from the E.U. fashioning itself as a sort of Singapore although reversing the roles. Where Singapore has prospered by anchoring itself in Asia as an outpost for European economic activity, Britain would strengthen its own position as a modal for Asian products and ideas after distancing itself from Europe.
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