Review: The Edge – Is the Military Dominance of the West Coming to an End – by Mark Urban

the edge

Only a short volume, this well-written work documents the weakening of the West in the geopolitical arena. The book first focuses on the reductions in military power of Western nations, both in terms of their military budgets and also their matériel. Despite modern weapons being produced, the volume of forces and the amount of weapons mean that many Western nations and indeed when they are combined in the NATO alliance would struggle to fight in a real nation to nation conflict, in particular with a major power. The author identifies that with the rise of ISIS and Russian annexation of Crimea, the old world order of international relations has been broken down. In the new world order we see rising nationalism, an end to American unipolarity as a superpower and the rise of spheres of influence among growing world powers such as Russia, China, India or Saudi Arabia. A lot of key military figures are consulted for their opinions and most express their frustration with politicians freezing budgets and express their growing concern of standing by to idly spectate international events. There is certainly an unwillingness of Western nations to engage militarily, an identified weakness. The new world may see a decline in liberal democratic values and from reading this book it is clear to identify that the future is most uncertain.

Advertisements

Review: China Road: A Journey Into The Future Of A Rising Power

China Road: A Journey Into The Future Of A Rising Power
China Road: A Journey Into The Future Of A Rising Power by Rob Gifford
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is a thoroughly absorbing study of modern China and its vast population. The author embarks on a pilgrimage along Route 312, China’s Route 66, heading West from Shanghai, deep into the deserted Asiatic frontier in the northwest. En route, he documents his mainly chance encounters with the general populace and impromptu, un-monitored interviews, bring out the true feelings of the Chinese and their views on modern life and the future. The book is quite scathing of the Chinese government in many ways, yet it appraises the newfound freedoms many Chinese have and explores the amazing pace of development that has propelled China into a dominant world power. Almost no stone is left uncovered and every aspect of culture, life, politics, industry, family and education, are probed. I found that the deeper West that Gifford reached the more extreme and amazing the travelogue revealed itself. As he headed out into the Gobi desert, the remoteness of this region was apparent and I found his meeting with the Uighur people, particularly enthralling. It is clear that the author is a deep sinophile and is obviously well-versed to make such a study, having worked in the region for many years as a leading journalist. I think that this book is very accessible and is a good light introduction to anyone who is studying China. There is a good bibliography and plenty of references. It is a well written tale and is fast-flowing. It combines well with other books I have read about the rise of China and its potential in the future of our planet.

View all my reviews

Review: The Albanians: A Modern History

The Albanians: A Modern History
The Albanians: A Modern History by Miranda Vickers
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Albania is one of those countries that have a colourful history and is a place that was a bit of an anomaly to me. I know that it is publicly perceived as a poor backwater of Eastern Europe but I wanted to read this well-written book to glean further information. After the fall of the Ottomans in the Balkans, Albania came into being as an independent entity. This came out of the back of several Balkan conflicts. The Albanians are one of the rainbow of ethnic tribes in the region, with their own language, culture and religions. The new country was plunged into a period of turmoil, facing the brunt of two world wars as it attempted to establish itself. The ancient ways of Ottoman times left a great deal of difficulty for any ruling power to modernise and Albania seemed destined to become isolated and a haven for political extremes, reaching a zenith under the charismatic tutelage of the communist dictator Enver Hoxha. His forty year rule paved the way for Albania to develop in its own unique way, relying at different times on the patronage of Russia, China, Yugoslavia and Italy. With the fall of communism in the modern era, a new democratic age was heralded, though the much anticipated improvements were not quite so instant with the country facing many political crises, the collapse of pyramidal banking schemes, the rise of organised crime and ongoing disputes about the ethnic Albanians in neighbouring countries. I found this book particularly enlightening in helping me to understand the Kosovo situation and all that it entails. As we move into the twenty-first century Albania holds Kosovo’s hand and makes inroads into its own emergence as a balkan power. It is now a member of NATO and has high hopes of full EU accession. The region is an interesting one and to understand Albania and its peoples this book is heralded as the cornerstone text for English-speakers.

View all my reviews

Review: When China Rules the World: The End of the Western World and the Birth of a New Global Order

When China Rules the World: The End of the Western World and the Birth of a New Global Order
When China Rules the World: The End of the Western World and the Birth of a New Global Order by Martin Jacques
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is an excellent study of China and its position in the modern world. The author explores the rise of China’s power, through history and into the future. China will be the biggest power in the global economy and this book projects how the new world will look. It examines Chinese attitudes to the world, the rate of development in China, and how China will treat the rest of the world as it assumes its position in the number 1 spot, currently held by the USA. A key factor which the author constantly identifies, in how China differs from previous world powers, is that China is not just a nation-state in the Westphalian sense, but a ‘civilisation-state’. It is continental in terms of its landmass and holds 20% of the world’s population. It has a rich 5000 year old history and is much less imperialistic in its attitude to foreign countries as the great powers which have preceded it. There are vast differences in how a world with China at its head will appear. The Western illusion will be shattered and countries will become ever more dependent upon a developed China. The study contains many fascinating statistics which prove the author’s thoughts and ideas. It introduces many topics which I had previously not really appreciated, such as the Chinese racial views on the world and also the dependency of Western Oceania countries such as Australia and New Zealand on the Chinese economy. As a sinophile, myself, I found the book thoroughly intriguing. It is unlike any other study I have read to date on China and offers a good glimpse into the future of the mother country. It is a question of when and not if, China becomes the biggest and most powerful nation on earth. It is scary to us in the West, what this may entail, but equally it is important that we ready ourselves for a new world order. This book provides ample preparation for anyone interested in what the growth of China means to them and how the world will change.

View all my reviews

A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers by Xiaolu Guo

I studied Chinese language for a couple of years and am constantly on the lookout for books about China and its culture. When this jumped out at me from a charity shop bookshelf, at first I thought it was just another dictionary. But I read the back and thought that it would make a good present for my partner and as I had recently bought her the cult erotic tale, ‘Fifty Shades Of Grey’, I thought she could trump all her friends by encountering the Chinese version.
I decided that although I’m not a great lover of fiction and no virtually nothing at all about erotic fiction, because of the cultural aspect, I would give it a go myself. I immediately got drawn into the main character. I loved the way the book was presented. For a student of the Mandarin tongue I fully embraced the way the English was written, in a ‘Chinglish’ fashion, and many references were made to the linguistic differences between East and West. Sex in the Orient is often seen in the West as a taboo subject and it is certain that it is viewed in very different terms throughout the globe depending upon one’s culture. I was shocked in a way to hear this young Chinese girl talk so open about her sexual desires and experiences. It was a real eye-opener. Her journeys across Europe and her liasons were very much down to earth and frank, and to be honest very believable. She didn’t experience the Hollywood romances, other fictional writers may depict. Her boudoir was really rather more grounded in the reality of sex, with disappointment, less than perfect partners and a real animalistic edge to the carnal desire, which did seem rather shocking coming from a woman’s mouth, even if she was from the Orient.
The book wasn’t all about sex and I found the travel side of the tale very interesting. The clash of cultures, of civilisations, the differences between East and West were fully explored. Not since I read Montesquieu’s Persian Letters, have I read such a good description of how an alien immerses themselves in a totally foreign culture. For anyone who has travelled abroad, especially travelling solo, it is very easy to relate to the findings made in this book. It’s not the grandiose elements of travel that form the memories of the experience, it’s the little details, the trivial elements that make travel what it is. Here was a woman struggling with her own emotions, cast out on her own in a journey of self-discovery. I think she found herself on her journey and her story was really an interesting and very readable one. For any sinophiles this is a great read and for people who want to know more about Chinese cultures and perceptions especially from a sexual perspective, I would highly recommend this book.