Book Reviews

  • Nayan Chanda
    Global Asia, 2015
    Reprinted from

    Over the centuries, some keen observers recognized the interconnected opportunities and problems between distant lands. And modern leaders who take the time to study those historical connections will have a better grasp of broader currents of global politics, trade and security despite shifting borders over time, suggests Nayan Chanda, editor of YaleGlobal, in this review of two books for Global Asia: Asia Inside Out, Volumes I and II, and Asian Encounters: Exploring Connected Histories. “The traditional study of history has been confined to narrower national borders, as while the actions of communities and populations, monarchs and ministers have been studied, seemingly marginal actors such as traders, pilgrims, refugees and other mobile populations have been largely left out,” Chanda writes.  “The volumes on connected histories under review brilliantly fill that gap. They show Asia as a ‘space of flows,’ and offer glimpses of early globalization.”

  • Dilip Hiro
    HarperCollins Publishers India, 2014
    ISBN: 978-93-5136-266-1

    Journalist and historian Dilip Hiro starts his book Indians in a Globalizing World: Their Skewed Rise with its purpose – analyzing the impact of India’s 1991 New Economic Policy and globalization on Indians at home and abroad.  India is a place of inequality, with troubling levels of corruption and poverty. The book offers personal tales of fortune and woe, which in turn give insights into the complex challenges of inequality in fast-developing India. Education offers the most reliable path to comfort and affluence, Susan Froetschel writes in her review. According to various rankings, India is not the most unequal place, yet is destined to become the world’s most populous nation over the next decade. India’s experiences hold lessons for the rest of the world on the dangers of skewed opportunities.

  • Bill Hayton
    New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014
    ISBN: 978-0300186833

    China’s fast rise disrupts global order and tests regional ties, too The South China Sea: The Struggle for Power in Asia details the history and disputes, analyzing the potential for conflict as China manages a tightrope between making broad claims and shaping a role as Asia’s benevolent leader. The book is written by Bill Hayton, BBC correspondent who has covered Southeast Asia since 2006, and reviewed by Nayan Chanda, editor in chief of YaleGlobal Online who reported from Vietnam and Cambodia during the 1970s. In the review originally published by, Chanda suggests the book dispels misconceptions, details the South China Sea’s essential role in modern trade and regional divisions, and analyzes the potential for rivalries turning into war.

  • Robert M. Gates
    Knopf, 2014
    ISBN: 978-0307959478

    Robert M. Gates has vast national security experience as lieutenant in the US Air Force, analyst and later director of the Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Council staffer, university president as well as secretary of defense who served two presidents from different parties while wars as wars were waged in Afghanistan and Iraq. So military analysts around the globe anticipated Gates’ book – Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War – published 30 months after he left his post as secretary of defense. In his review, Marc A. Sorel expresses some skepticism about Gates’ rhetorical comparisons of actual war with the bitter partisanship that divides Washington, though in the end, looks forward to more analysis from Gates in the years to come. 

  • Howard W. French
    Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2014
    ISBN: 0307956989

    From 1990 to 2008, Howard French reported for The New York Times as bureau chief for Central America and the Caribbean, West Africa, Japan and the Koreas, and China in Shanghai. French builds on those experiences to describe how Chinese migrants contribute to Africa’s development in his book China’s Second Continent: How a Million Migrants Are Building a New Empire in Africa. The influence can run both ways, notes veteran journalist and editor of YaleGlobal Online Nayan Chanda in his review, which was first published by Global Asia: “A common theme that emerges from French’s inter­views with these Chinese migrants is that most lacked opportunity at home and resented omni­present corruption, pollution and lack of freedom….”  

  • William I. Robinson
    New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014
    ISBN: 978-1-107-69111-7

    The world is highly integrated, and few can hope to escape the consequences of modern capitalism –inequality, debt and corporate power combined with worrisome declines in sustainability and trust in government. A mix of crises threatens world civilization, argues William I. Robinson, a sociology professor, in Global Capitalism and the Crisis of Humanity, and prospects for reform seem bleak. To ensure a comfortable way of life for future generations, Robinson urges critical thinking, political engagement and redistribution of wealth. Just as globalization has spurred processes of finance, supply chains and labor mobility, the phenomenon could speed ideas for rescue, too. 

  • Emma Barrett and Paul Martin
    Oxford University Press, 2014
    ISBN: 978-0-19-966858-8

    Exploring extreme and dangerous environments – the ocean depths, space, caves or disaster zones – requires courage, resilience, focus, self-discipline in addition to meticulous planning. Extreme: Why Some People Thrive at the Limits by Emma Barrett and Paul Martin examines the characteristics required to embrace and manage the risks. The authors argue that such skills and attitudes can be developed, taught and practiced. In her review, Susan Froetschel suggests that the skill set will come in handy as the globe experiences more extreme weather patterns, a result of climate change, and she concludes, “The world has a need for people willing to step into harm’s way, and how they manage risks should be understood and appreciated.” 

  • Nader Hashemi and Danny Postel, Editors
    The MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2013
    ISBN: 978-0-262-02683-3

    The civil war in Syria should be tough for global citizens to ignore with more than 100,000 dead, brutal fighting, and a stream of images of devastated cities and overcrowded refugee camps. The war destabilizes the region, yet the global community seems paralyzed to act. The Syria Dilemma, a collection of 21 essays, explores the war’s complexities and analyzes options for the international community, including intervention and diplomacy. In her review, Susan Froetschel points out that endless fragmentation is an enemy for good governance – and that an opposition uniting around an agenda emphasizing respect for human rights and intolerance for violence could sound the death knell for the Assad regime.

  • David Shambaugh
    Published by Oxford University Press, 2013
    ISBN: 0199860149

    David Shambaugh, professor of political science and international affairs and director of the China Policy Program at George Washington University, is a highly respected analyst of Chinese politics who has written for YaleGlobal. His most recent book focuses on China’s ambivalent involvement in global affairs and quest for global power. Alistair Burnett, editor of the BBC News Program The World Tonight, describes the book as a “treasure trove” on Chinese global participation and the debates within China’s power circles on how to proceed, albeit through an American lens. Both review and book reinforce the opinion that China is involved in global politics but would prefer to boost economic development at home.

  • Edward N. Luttwak
    Belknap Press, Harvard University Press, 2012

    Media in the West frequently suggest that China is on a trajectory to become the world’s leading economy and superpower. Edward Luttwak argues that China, because of its history and geostrategic position in the world, confronts a choice. It can become an economic power or military power, but cannot achieve both. In his review, BBC editor Alistair Burnett outlines the argument and evidence. History suggests that a country bordering many states – and China has 14 neighbors – will struggle to overcome wariness and their inclination for balance by forming ties with rivals like the United States. Burnett finds Luttwak’s evidence intriguing, yet warns that China has overcome many challenges and could buck the historical trend.