Kirkus Reviews | 7 December 2018
An India-born, Western-educated strategic adviser and author offers a comprehensive worldview from an Asian perspective.
Now residing in Singapore—“the unofficial capital of Asia, a melting pot that embodies Asia’s potential to make the most of the Europeanization and Americanization of the past and, most importantly, the Asianization of today and tomorrow”—Khanna (Connectography: Mapping the Future of Global Civilization, 2016, etc.) enlists his considerable global experience and education to elegantly lay out the vast range and enormous potential of what he calls the Asian “system” of moving beyond geography and embracing “alliances, institutions, infrastructure, trade, investment, culture and other patterns.” As such, Asia encompasses China, Japan, South Korea, and Vietnam as well as the Gulf states (“West Asia”), and India, Russia, Iran, and, strategically, Australia. Seeing the world from an Asian point of view first entails jettisoning accumulated stereotypes—e.g., that Asia needs the U.S. more than we need Asia. This is not true, and Asian nations have become increasingly wary of Washington’s “unreliable promises.” Khanna begins with a dazzling distillation of the history of the world from an Asian perspective, emphasizing how the main swath of early civilization was situated in Asia and how briefly (though intensively) the Western powers inserted themselves into the picture. The author underscores that “Asia’s linkages have been continually propelled through commerce, conflict, and culture.” Following the historical narrative, Khanna moves into “Asia-nomics,” or how each country is developing its particular economic strength. For example, after the first wave of modern Asian growth in postwar Japan and South Korea, followed by China, the current wave is now propelled by Southeast Asia (India, Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia). Then, the author addresses the phenomenal Asian diaspora in America and in Europe; China’s forays into Africa; and how liberal democracy probably does not suit Asian countries as much as the technocratic model ("good despotism") of Lee Kuan Yew’s Singapore.
Western readers with a strong devotion to individual liberties may be turned off, but Khanna is thorough and clear, offering abundant food for thought.