Chang's book makes vivid the frustrating and truly frightening problem of North Korea, a near-failed state that has little to lose and thus feels free to threaten to go nuclear and recklessly use its bombs to destroy the established world order. Chang knows Asia well, and he has his eyes set on the long term, which he sees as full of troubles; his previous book was The Coming Collapse of China, and in this new book he foresees "the end of American primacy." He argues that if the United States lacks the will to stand up to North Korea, a pathetically incompetent third-rate power, it must be in "irreversible decline." At times, he seems to be trying to shame Washington into becoming more aggressive against North Korea. In his eyes, it is the duty of the world's dominant power to protect the international system from developing-world states seeking to go nuclear.