The End of the Asian Century


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War, Stagnation, and the Risks to the World’s Most Dynamic Region

Michael R. Auslin

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An urgently needed “risk map” of the many dangers that could derail Asia’s growth and stability

"A point-by-point debunking of the 'Asiaphoria' that gripped so many imaginations a decade ago . . . Auslin argues that the conditions are building for major-power conflict in Asia and the Pacific."—David Frum, Atlantic

Since Marco Polo, the West has waited for the “Asian Century.” Today, the world believes that Century has arrived. Yet from China’s slumping economy to war clouds over the South China Sea and from environmental devastation to demographic crisis, Asia’s future is increasingly uncertain. Historian and geopolitical expert Michael Auslin argues that far from being a cohesive powerhouse, Asia is a fractured region threatened by stagnation and instability. Here, he provides a comprehensive account of the economic, military, political, and demographic risks that bedevil half of our world, arguing that Asia, working with the United States, has a unique opportunity to avert catastrophe – but only if it acts boldly. Bringing together firsthand observations and decades of research, Auslin’s provocative reassessment of Asia’s future will be a must-read for industry and investors, as well as politicians and scholars, for years to come.

Michael R. Auslin is the Williams-Griffis Fellow in Contemporary Asia at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

"No sooner had we got used to thinking of ourselves as living in the 'Asian century' than it might be all over. . . . The book is a crash course on the risks in Asia."—Lucy Hornby, Financial Times

"What happens in Asia will determine much of what historians in the 22nd century say about our century. Michael Auslin’s bracing book argues that it may be a sad story. It is a powerful antidote to the Asiaphoria that dominates conventional wisdom. Agree or disagree, Auslin’s argument deserves serious reflection."Lawrence H. Summers, former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury and President Emeritus, Harvard University

"Michael Auslin provides and impressive review of Asian fault lines that could soon break into open conflict despite the region’s interwoven economies. The End of the Asian Century is a unique analysis, and likely prescient, of the world’s most vibrant region."—Frederick W. Smith, Chairman and CEO, FedEx Corporation

"Michael Auslin’s book, The End of the Asian Century: War, Stagnation, and the Risks to the World’s Most Dynamic Region, gives the reader a pragmatic look at the risks inherent in the Asia region. It is an excellent guide for anyone interested in the prospects for Asia, whether you are an investor, policymaker, or executive. It is full of practical examples of what is working well, and what one has to be aware of."—Henry R. Kravis, Co-Chairman and Co-CEO, KKR

"I and many of my colleagues worry more about Chinese weakness than we do Chinese strength; we fret more over Asian failure than we do Asian competitive success. Michael Auslin's thoughtful new book explains why.  It's a must-read for anyone who wants to go beyond today's oversimplified sloganeering."—General (Ret.) Michael V. Hayden, former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency

"The End of the Asian Century is the most complete and realistic book on the subject I have read in a long time. It demonstrates in bold and specific terms how we must not take Asian stability for granted and how Asia may have unpleasant surprises for us in the years ahead."—Robert D. Kaplan, author of Monsoon and Asia's Cauldron, senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security

"The End of the Asian Century provides a sober corrective to the conventional wisdom of Asia's inevitable rise, pointing to the real dangers of nationalism, conflict, and slowing economic growth that will present huge challenges for everyone in the region."—Francis Fukuyama, Olivier Nomellini Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, Stanford University, and author of The End of History and the Last Man

"Too much contemporary analysis is based on the mistaken belief that human progress is effortlessly certain. But as we discovered in Russia, nothing should be taken for granted. There is no destiny, only courage and hard work and vigilance. It is fine to be an optimist, but ignoring potential crises only makes them more likely. The End of the Asian Century reminds us that positive change isn’t easy or inevitable. Half the world lives in Asia and the region’s rise or fall will have a huge impact on the other half. Auslin clearly explains the weakest links in the many globalized connections between Asia and the rest of the world, as well as the possible crisis points across the entire region. This focus on the details provides the context needed to understand the big picture."—Garry Kasparov, Chairman of the Human Rights Foundation and author of Winter Is Coming: Why Vladimir Putin and the Enemies of the Free World Must Be Stopped

"Michael Auslin combines an historian's perspective with the art of diagnosis to map Asia's possible futures. The surprising result is anticipatory, cautionary, and contrarian. Written with verve and a readable style, Auslin urges us to weigh the wide-ranging implications of these risks for America and the rest of the world."—Robert B. Zoellick, former President of the World Bank, US Trade  Representative, and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State

"At a time when Asia’s importance is matched only by its complexity and unpredictability, Michael Auslin has provided us a thoughtful, deeply researched, and engagingly written primer on how to think about the future of this vital region."—Robert Kagan, senior fellow, Brookings Institutions and author of The World America Made

"The conventional wisdom has long held that Asia is inexorably rising while America declines. In a bold and provocative book that is sure to spark debate, Michael Auslin challenges that old thinking by showing that Asia risks a calamitous descent into conflict and economic turmoil. Written with grace and insight, The End of the Asian Century is must reading for anyone interested not just in Asia but in geopolitics more broadly."—Max Boot, Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Senior Fellow for National Security Studies, Council on Foreign Relations and author of The Savage Wars of Peace: Small Wars and the Rise of American Power

"Moving from geography to economics and politics, Asia expert Michael Auslin draws an innovative risk map in this well researched new book. This thoughtful and skeptical challenge to consensus, with its caution that America must up its game in the region, is a must-read for any policy maker or businessperson thinking seriously about the world today."—Glenn Hubbard, Dean, and Russell L. Carson Professor of Finance and Economics, Columbia Business School

"Few other regions matter more for the world's future than Asia. Will the region be a global economic engine and a geopolitical stabilizer or an exporter of economic woes and dangerous conflicts? An urgent question to which Michael Auslin offers lucid—and often counterintuitive— answers. A must read for leaders in business and government as well as academics and journalists."—Moisés Naím, Distinguished Fellow, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and author of The End of Power

"Michael Auslin has succeeded in producing a most compelling book that argues convincingly that the supposed dreamy mirage of the Asian Century just over the horizon has detoured onto much more difficult and even treacherous terrain, beset by nationalist gripes and ambitions, economic malaise and mounting military tensions. It will be an essential contribution to anyone contemplating America's complex role and ambitions in Asia."—Kurt M. Campbell, former Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs and Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, The Asia Group

"Many think of a Rising Asia – economically vibrant and politically stable – as the future of the international system. Michael Auslin’s brilliant new book highlights the demographic, economic, political and diplomatic factors that make this brave new world far less likely. It is essential reading for all who want to understand the future of global order."—Eric Edelman, former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy

"Everyone talks of Western decline. But Michael Auslin, in this well-crafted and documented systematic survey of contemporary Asia, persuasively demonstrates that far more likely is an implosion in the East, threatening the entire postwar American-led economic and political order. A rare and completely original book that is as engaging as it is sometimes frightening."—Victor Davis Hanson, Senior Fellow, the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and author of Carnage and Culture

"This book is a must read for policymakers, academics, business leaders, and others who have an interest in Asia’s future role in the world. Michael Auslin identifies elements of Asia’s political, economic, and security landscape that cannot be ignored and are important to understand in the coming decades if the U.S. is to continue engaging with Asia on all of these fronts."—Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO), Chairman, Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy, Senate Foreign Relations Committee

"An answer to those, both East and West, who have insisted that the 21st will be an Asian century. Michael Auslin’s book gives a powerful and wide-ranging description of Asia’s impending crises—demographic, domestic, economic, and security. If you thought history was going Asia’s way, this remarkable work will make you think again."—Eliot A. Cohen, Robert E. Osgood Professor of Strategic Studies, Johns Hopkins SAIS, and author of Supreme Command: Soldiers, Statesmen, and Leadership in Wartime

"Keenly written, extravagantly well-informed and unfailingly incisive, The End of the Asian Century is a sobering warning about the risks emanating from a region of the world that is much-discussed, but also much misunderstood. Policy-makers and business leaders ignore Michael Auslin at their peril."—Rich Lowry, editor, National Review

"In this important book, Michael Auslin who has studied and admired the accomplishments of Asia’s people for more than twenty-five years warns us not to assume too much and outlines five risk factors that threaten the future of what he prefers to call the 'Indo-Pacific Region.' Though not a prophecy of gloom, it is a cautionary tale, about the risks that need to be managed if the progress of the last thirty years is to be sustained and a return to earlier tragic failures is to be avoided."—Paul Wolfowitz, former president, The World Bank, and Deputy Secretary of Defense

"Michael Auslin's engaging book looks at the other side of ascending Asia with a combination of personal observation and well-deployed statistical evidence. His conclusions may be accepted or not, but his path to them is often very illuminating."—Edward Luttwak, author, The Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire

"Michael Auslin’s The End of the Asian Century represents an important warning of the risks accompanying the rise of Asia - risks that deserve greater attention in the United States and beyond."—Thomas G. Mahnken, President, Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments

"The End of the Asian Century is the essential user’s guide to the gathering risks in the dynamic Indo-Pacific crescent. Not since Robert D. Kaplan’s The Coming Anarchy and Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations has a study so originally and presciently captured the risks to the emerging international order."—James Kraska, Howard S. Levie Professor of International Law, U.S. Naval War College

"In The End of the Asian Century, Michael Auslin questions the conventional wisdom regarding Asia's inevitable and continued rise. The result is a fascinating, timely, and illuminating analysis of where Asia may be headed—and why."—Colin Dueck, Associate Professor at George Mason University, and author of The Obama Doctrine: American Grand Strategy Today

"Michael Auslin clearly identifies the security, cultural, social, economic, and political undercurrents that could undermine what many believe to be the 'Asian century.' This book is required reading for both professionals and laymen, indeed for all who care deeply about the future stability of this critical region."Dov S. Zakheim, former U.S. Under Secretary of Defense

"Michael Auslin’s illuminating study is based on a startling premise: that current positive trends in Asia won’t continue. Anyone planning on the basis a 'rosy scenario' could well be surprised and have to face serious downside risks—economic, demographic, and security. Auslin warns that the time to begin hedging against those risks in order to avoid the worst, is now."—Richard C. Bush, Director, Center for East Asia Policy Studies, The Brookings Institution

"The Indo-Pacific is dynamic but dangerous. In this provocative book, long-time scholar Michael Auslin authoritatively challenges the consensus of a future that looks Asian. In this 'cartographic exercise,' he carefully maps out the political, economic and social landscape of risks that may sound the death knell of an Asian Century. Boom or bust, the future of the region has significant implications for the rest of the world. This is a must-read that anticipates an imminent shift in the global discourse."—Yoichi Funabashi, President, Rebuild Japan Initiative and former editor-in-chief of The Asahi Shimbun

"Do miracles have an expiration date? In The End of the Asian Century, Michael Auslin offers a much-needed corrective to the perma-bulls who wave away concerns about whether the planet's most important economic region can continue to be a dynamic one. Balanced, penetrating analysis."—James Pethokoukis, MSNBC contributor and economic analyst

"Michael Auslin has written a thought-provoking, contrarian, and insightful book on the world's most dynamic region. It should make all of us think again soberly about Asia's future."—Minxin Pei, Claremont McKenna College, author of China's Trapped Transition

"Michael Auslin's exploration of Asia's internal contradictions is at once timely and insightful. The triumphalism in the East and the anxieties in the West about a rising Asia have tended to obscure, until recently, the multiple divides the region. As nationalism, renewed territorial disputes, great power competition, economic slow-down and political instability threaten the future of Asia, Auslin's risk-map is a valuable guide to any one interested in the uncertain future of the Indo-Pacific region and its implications for the rest of the world."—C. Raja Mohan, Director, Carnegie India, New Delhi

"Michael Auslin has built a reputation as an astute and forward-looking observer. In his new book, Auslin paints a vivid picture of a region waiting to see the full extent of Beijing's ambitions while wondering how the United States will ultimately respond. Those wishing to understand the scale of the challenge posed by China's destabilizing behavior would be well-served by this timely book."—Congressman J. Randy Forbes (R-Va), Chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower & Projection Forces and Co-Chairman of the Congressional China Caucus

"Amid the hype about 'Asia's Century,' Michael Auslin's new book provides a much-needed blast of realism about the region's fault lines. For all the power and wealth that are moving eastwards, Auslin shows that Asia is also rife with unresolved conflicts, it faces powerful economic headwinds that will hold back growth, and the politics in some of its key countries are extremely fragile. As Auslin demonstrates, there is nothing pre-ordained about the continuation of Asia's rise."—Geoff Dyer, author of The Contest of the Century: The New Era of Competition with China—and How America Can Win

"Replete with wise observations, culled from extensive experience in the region, this book ought to be on everyone's bookshelves. Asia will continue to preoccupy us, but perhaps not in the way we expected: the growth of wealth and commercial interactions will not give rise automatically to a harmonious region nor necessarily to a rivalry with the U.S. In fact, the future of Asia may be characterized by instability and heightened risk. A must read."—Jakub Grygiel, Senior Fellow-in-Residence, Center for European Policy Analysis

"For years, many Americans have seen a rising Asia as a region of opportunity. But Asia scholar Michael Auslin has come to see it as a region of risks—military, economic, demographic. In The End of the Asian Century, he provides a 'risk map' of a region of great promise and great problems."—Michael Barone, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and Washington Examiner senior political analyst

"This is a book with the right focus for America given the likely future importance of Asia. It is a first cut at the kind of analysis that is needed."—Andrew W. Marshall, former Director, Office of Net Assessment, U.S. Department of Defense

"Informative, thoughtful, and wide-ranging . . . well-researched, insightful . . . a wake-up call."—Publishers Weekly

"Auslin argues powerfully for a dose of reality when assessing the current situation in Asia and its future problems and prospects."—George P. Shultz, former U.S. Secretary of State and Secretary of the Treasury, and Distinguished Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University

"[Auslin] argues persuasively that most predictions for Asia are unrealistically rosy."—Tony Abbott, Wall Street Journal

"Auslin has done us a great service, and his book deserves to be read."—Peter Mattis, War On The Rocks

"A  brilliant book . . . easy to read and engaging."—Michael Rubin, Commentary

"A valuable new book."—Aaron MacLean, Washington Free Beacon

"Informative, thoughtful, and wide-ranging . . . well-researched, insightful . . . a wake-up call."—Publishers Weekly

"A plausible, meticulously documented analysis of the deep fissures that divide the individual nations and cultures of the Asian Pacific and portend trouble ahead — economically, politically and diplomatically."—Aram Bakshian Jr., Washington Times

"A useful reminder. . . . Most Asian leaders have recognized that unless they tread carefully, the continent will not succeed. Managing the risks Auslin describes consumes much of the day-to-day politics and diplomacy of the region."—Foreign Affairs

"A point-by-point debunking of the 'Asiaphoria' that gripped so many imaginations a decade ago . . . Auslin argues that the conditions are building for major-power conflict in Asia and the Pacific."—David Frum, Atlantic

"And yet in just 222 pages his book manages to serve not only as an excellent introduction to the region but as an incisive guide to understanding the contemporary risks roiling the most consequential region of the world."—Charles Edel, Naval War College Review

Named to the Politico 50 Reading List

“For scholars and policymakers who have sufficient background knowledge about the Asia-Pacific, this book is a fantastic work that will help them have a deeper and more sophisticated understanding of the region, with all the real and potential problems awaiting.”—Zhiqun Zhu, Education About Asia
ISBN: 9780300212228
Publication Date: January 10, 2017
304 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
15 b/w illus.