Asia’s Cauldron: The South China Sea and the End of a Stable Pacific
Robert D. Kaplan
Random House, 2014
Throughout this book, Kaplan Discusses the rise of China and it’s possible effects on regional stability, both in the South China Sea and the greater Pacific ocean. Each chapter focuses on a different nation with territory in the Sea and how each of these nations and their cultures, geography and economy will be impacted by the rise of China.
The author clearly has a realist perspective on world events, even beginning the first page with a quote from Sir Francis Bacon. He provides a good and insightful analysis of how nations approach the rise of China and the differences in available strategies, both discussing the limits each nation has and the options still open to them as well as their relationship with China.
One complaint is that the author makes apologies for certain dictators who he believes benefited their nation and gives them very limited criticism for their undemocratic practices (this can mostly be found in the chapters on Singapore and Malaysia). although he does clearly state that these leaders were not properly democratically elected, he fails to provide much criticism of there authoritarian practices. My other complaint is that some of the chapters do feel a bit short and some points feel underdeveloped, mostly the sections relating to China itself. If you are looking for a book focused mainly on China then there are better options however for a book more focused on South-East Asia, there a few better works.
This book would be even better if read in conjunction with another of Kaplan’s books “monsoon” which discusses the Indian ocean and together they provide a summary of events occurring in the world two trafficked sea lanes, both of which are undergoing rapid change as new powers begin to assert dominance and challenge the status quo.