Pavel K Baev
Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO)
The author’s fame as a sharp commentator and valuable consultant is probably well-deserved, but his much-advertised but not quite best-selling magnum opus is a disappointment. It is built around a simple thesis that Asians are fulfilling their ‘natural destiny’ and ‘presiding over the construction of a new Asian-led order’ (p. 11). The proposition that hugely different states and societies from Turkey to Japan are getting together into a ‘coherent system’ is made into an axiom, which was not self-evident before only because European colonialism fractured Asia into fragments unable to ‘congeal meaningfully’ (p. 6). The consent to preserve in the Asia-led world such features of Westernization as ‘the English language, capitalism, and the pursuit of scientific excellence’ (p. 23) might appear ridiculous, but it is not innocent: it allows the author to bracket out such inconvenient notions as human rights and democratic freedoms. For that matter, the Rohingya genocide is mentioned only once in passing. Climate change is of minor importance in the brilliant Asian future; it is mentioned twice: as a factor that ‘accelerates Russia’s Asianization’ (p. 90), and as a condition that makes Africa import more food from Asia (p. 266). The repetitive assertions of virtues of Asian order make Thomas Friedman look like a deep philosopher and George Friedman like a wise futurologist – but neither is listed in the bibliography. Khanna loves to quote his conversations with the great minds of our times, but Francis Fukuyama has not made it to the index, and Samuel Huntington received one indifferent nod. Artificial geopolitical construct of Asia has little explanatory value, and the book proves it at great length.