Courtesy Reuters

Disorder Under Heaven

I appreciate Bilahari Kausikan’s review of my book The End of the Asian Century (“Asia in the Trump Era,” May/June 2017). He is correct to point out my focus on the economic, political, and security risks that may derail Asia’s future stability. But his misinterpretation of my argument at several points, although not fatal to an understanding the book, gives a misleading impression of some of its more significant claims. 

First, Kausikan writes that I misread history by asserting that Asia never recovered politically from the fall of the last stable political order, the Qing dynasty, in 1911, and that I suffer from “nostalgia for the traditional Chinese order.” But to identify a regional political vacuum after 1911 is far from indulging in nostalgia for a sclerotic, premodern dynastic system; rather, it is an acknowledgment of the failure of any successor state to create a system, ritual-based or otherwise, that most regional players interpret as legitimate and in which they willingly participate.

Second, Kausikan claims that I dismiss the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and initiatives such as the East Asia Summit as “insufficiently ambitious” in replacing the Qing order. Actually, I devote extensive space to asean but never claim that it was designed to replace the Qing order; moreover, examining its limitations is not the same as dismissing it. And Kausikan himself then acquits me of his own charge by reprinting my own words to the effect that asean never sought to become an Asian variant of the eu or a dominant political player.

Third, Kausikan makes grander claims for my “concentric triangles” initiative than I do. I never assert that it should become a new regional security architecture or that it should replace the current U.S. hub-and-spoke alliance system. Rather, I argue that Washington should update its current strategy and have a clearer objective for engaging on a multilateral basis with allies and partners alike, linking them in an endeavor to create more durable bonds of trust

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