An IIPM Initiative
Monday, March 27, 2023




SAURABH KUMAR SHAHI | Issue Dated: January 5, 2017, New Delhi
Tags : Easternisation | Gideon Rachman |



Author: Gideon Rachman

Publisher: Penguin Random House

Edition: Paperback



Price: Rs 699

A year and a half ago, when Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Europe, no one would have expected any surprise. It was a banal, bilateral visit and most of the media was treating it as such. Suddenly, a month before the visit, something started to stir. Word was leaked that several more European heads of state and governments would likely avail of the opportunity to meet their Chinese counterpart. Amidst diplomatic flurry, a substantial portion of Europe finally made a beeline to meet him when the day arrived. The imagery left the world stunned. The phenomenon of Easternisation that started with the days of Deng Xiaoping had finally shifted to the rush lane.

Gideon Rachman, chief foreign affairs commentator for the Financial Times, has come up with a new book that deals with this phenomenon in a way that most other have failed to do till now. Easternisation: War and Peace in the Asian Century has a massive scope to deal with. After all, Asia is not merely China. However, without getting entangled into political correctness, Rachman focuses on what is going to be the lynchpin of this process: China.

That the centre of mass has started to shift from the West towards the East in general, and China in particular, is now a forgone conclusion. It would be lazy journalism had someone made this as the central theme of a new book. But a few pages into the book one realises that Rachman is anything but lazy. What Rachman focuses on is how this shift is impacting most of Southeast, East and South Asia, with China at its centre.

Unlike most Western commentators, who have been predicting the “inevitable hard landing” of the Chinese economy since several years, Rachman dismisses the notion summarily and focuses on how China’s rise is shaping a new economic order.

Rachman also deals with US’s denial of its diminishing role, but not explicitly. Events in Syria have only strengthened the fact that US is now incapable of dominating the world play single-handedly, and that Russia and China have changed the rules of engagement. Make no mistake, but for their vetos, Damascus would have fallen like Tripoli, with US-supported jihadists at the helm. Rachman maintains that while the elites in US are in denial, Obama, a realist, did accept this and acted accordingly.

The more interesting aspect is his focus on European elites. In this regard, it is important to mention a leaked cable by Wikileaks that focuses on Europe’s desire to please China at whatever cost. In as early as 2004, France was of the opinion that embargos put on China because of the Tiananmen Square incident needed to go. The cable further suggested that Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Greece, Italy and the UK were all in the French camp. Germany, Denmark, Netherlands and Sweden did attach lifting of embargo to “specific Chinese steps on human rights” but such protests and dissenting voices are losing bite every passing year. 

Rachman’s scholarship also busts the optimism of Indian elite, who somehow still believe that India is a competitor to China. Although he is not explicit in his ridicule, he delivers his verdict without embellishment.

“The development gap between India and China is clear not just in the figures; but in the streets. China is now criss-crossed by modern motorways and a network of high-speed railways. In India, by contrast, the road network is still primitive and, in 2015, some 50% of Indians even lacked access to basic toilet facilities – a national disgrace that Modi, to his credit, has made a policy priority. Levels of basic education and literacy, which were crucial to the economic miracles in East Asia, are much lower in India than in China,” he writes.

A section of book is dedicated to Russia and its shift towards the East in the past few years. Rachman maintains that this is not abnormal as Russia has been drifting into Eastern and Western camps all its life depending on who wields the maximum power. Recent deals with China, and its aggression on the foreign policy front should be seen in this context. While the mainstream perception of this shift is that it is natural for two authoritarian states to seek closeness, Rachman interestingly observes, “Recent years have seen the emergence of strongmen such as Viktor Orban in Hungary and Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey, who look East for inspiration, and as China pumps money into Africa and Latin America, usually with fewer strings attached than Western aid and investment, these continents too are becoming battlegrounds for influence.”

The book is not without drawbacks. Like most other Western commentators, most of the projections that Rachman gives vis-à-vis China are based on the assumption that it will act like any Western superpower. This is a big mistake. The world has no previous example – with the possible exception of Japan – to base its projection on. And this is precisely why they have faltered every time they have stuck their neck out on China.

Rachman’s scholarship is a must read for Easterners and Westerners alike. It is one of the most solid ones to have come out on the phenomenon of Easternisation in years. It is expected that this will act as the harbinger of cold truth. Perhaps that will in turn compel Western commentators to come up with more detailed work.

Rate this article:
Bad Good    
Current Rating 0
Previous Story

Previous Story

Post CommentsPost Comments

Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017