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Summary

The defining geopolitical contest of the 21st century is between China and the US. But is it avoidable? And if it happens, is the outcome already inevitable?

China and America are world powers without serious rivals. They eye each other warily across the Pacific; they communicate poorly; there seems little natural empathy. A massive geopolitical contest has begun.

America prizes freedom; China values freedom from chaos. America values strategic decisiveness; China values patience.America is becoming society of lasting inequality; China a meritocracy. America has abandoned multilateralism; China welcomes it.

Kishore Mahbubani, a diplomat and scholar with unrivalled access to policymakers in Beijing and Washington, has written the definitive guide to the deep fault lines in the relationship, a clear-eyed assessment of the risk of any confrontation, and a bracingly honest appraisal of the strengths and weaknesses, and superpower eccentricities, of the US and China.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2020 Kishore Mahbubani (P)2020 PublicAffairs

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An East Asian perspective on this contest

He is not an evolutionary psychologist but has written like he is one. A dominant tribe (USA) is being challenged by an up and coming tribe (China) for the title. He describes the moves the USA are making that are wise if they want to remain the champ, and what they are doing to lose the match. He does the same with China. I found his description of the lack of understanding in the West that their way to govern may be best for them but is not the best for East Asia and other parts of the world quite insightful and correct. It is one of the big mistakes the USA is making in not understanding how the Chinese form of government that the USA perceive as so evil, has lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty and given China the ability to no longer be pushed around as they were during what they call their century of humiliation by foreign powers. Tribal ego on the part of both of these nations gets in the way of greater cooperation and prosperity for both; Mahbubani does an excellent job of showing that with numerous examples throughout the book. If one is interested in the tribal contest between China and the USA, what motivates both, strategies they should follow to win it,and whats in it for the rest of the world, I'd recommend you read this analysis. His perspective may be uncomfortable for some Westerners, certainly for Americans it will be, but are you looking for comfort or clarity? This book is well researched and informative, but reads quite smoothly. Mahbubani clearly has a handle on what motivates the Chinese better than other books on the subject I have read by Westerners. Lee Kuan Yew had countless conversations with Chinese leaders during their economic rise because they saw Lee as a mentor. Lee was an expert on what motivates China due to these relationships. Lee was also a mentor to Mahbubani and obviously shared his knowledge about Chinese aims with him. This book is informative because most books on this subject give us the Western perspective, this is a refreshing departure that is bringing balance to the conversation.

9 people found this helpful

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The struggle for global hedgamony

One of those times when you need to go against your instinct. Certainly, a different perspective in the Sino-American struggle for global hegemony. Needless to say, we would be batting for opposite sides...but a useful insight into the Asian mind and their perspective.

At times I found myself screaming at the book...like when he was quick to point out GM’s unprecedented growth in China with record ‘profits’ but failed to mention that companies cannot repatriate their ‘profits’ back to their home countries.

Yes, it is good to recall past ‘mistakes’ western imperialism been possibly the most egregious.

Nothing comes from nothing.... and in many occasions, there is just cause for mistrust and enmities.

Insightful and interestingly analytical of ‘fixed’ positions on both sides.

I’ve read many a book on China...and this is one I’m glad to have in my collection.

But to be honest...I’m not sure if he is naive or an apologist...that’s one I'll take my time over...you can make your own mind up....

One thing for sure though.... he asks a question that does need addressing particularly for Americans.

4 people found this helpful

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Rather one-sided!

This book contains some interesting information and facts.

However a large part of the book was spent critiquing the United States of America. Had the author done the same for China I would have viewed this as a more honest assessment of the situation. The author’s fawning of the Chinese communist party and Chinese success just left me wondering what his real motives were?

2 people found this helpful

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Bias

I have never seen such heavy cherry picking, it’s ok but I lost track of the amount of apples and pears comparisons

1 person found this helpful

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Changing world order

We are living in fascinating times, as one power over takes another. The manner in which the US is taking this handover is ugly and off-putting, and the optimism by the rise of china is well high lighted in this book. In mainstream media we are told to fear this.

Very fact based and just very interesting insights into geopolitics and interpretations of events from different sides.

Would recommend to anyone who doesn't know much about China but are interested in geopolitics.

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  • ET
  • 04-01-21

Offers another viewpoint

Carefully breaks down and analyses areas of US-China relations without the hysteria. Wish this had included a post-covid update. A must read for any American (and anyone, really) who considers themselves intelligent and open minded.

1 person found this helpful

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An excellent book.

A fantastic and detailed overview of the difficulties faced by the West in terms of understanding China.

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Nieve and preaching

Vague liberal swipe at Western civilisation so,popular in 2nd rate intellectuals filled with thinly veiled resentment of US, UK and Europe

1 person found this helpful

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Has China Won?

An insightful understanding of the geopolitical contest between America and China. A must read book for the century.

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very insightful view of both China and US

I think it is an insightful book that made me think. perhaps it is a little biased towards China as but is hard to see in Trump years how not to think otherwise.

I'm not sure about trying to equate some things he does but certainly is a very well put together arguement as to why US doesn't really understand it handle China well.

also on how China is run, very interesting and a far cry from current political landscape in us and West.

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  • William J Brown
  • 19-04-20

Outstanding, timely, and prescient

Mahbubani’s book is topical and direct, pulling from his lens as a global citizen who has engaged firsthand with many ASEAN events and key stakeholders. The audio should be required listening for FOX News viewers seeking to move beyond Trump and conservative propaganda to cast China a villain as they flail to shift blame for disastrous rhetoric and horrific economic, trade and military policies since Reagan but accelerated during the calamity of Trump’s first 3 years in office, culminating in the COVID-19 debacle (“hoax”, “China virus”, “China lab-produced” - even as that was proven a lie by American scientists months ago, “China tariffs”, etc).

Readers should also secure the current issue of “The Economist”, clearly impressed by Mahbubani’s work, with their cover story “Is China Winning?”. Will anxiously await further work by the author.

15 people found this helpful

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  • A. M.
  • 07-08-20

Reads like sophisticated propaganda

According to Kishore Mahbubani, YES, CHINA HAS WON. Don't even try. In fact, time to wave the white flag, surrender, withdraw, and blame thyself. This is the typical leftist prescription for all the ills in the world...it's America's fault.

Kishore Mahbubani is certainly a China apologist and naysayer of all things American. But unlike a propagandist, he doesn't beat you over the head. Instead, he hooks you and slowly reels you in before you have a chance to think. His narratives are selective and omitting, and obviously biased. He trivializes Chinese transgressions but is never short of analogies to admonish America and its diplomats.

Get used to being #2, he implies. Not me. I don't want to live in a world dominated by China and its predatory policies. A much better read on this subject is Graham Allison's "Destined for war."

9 people found this helpful

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  • Mordechai G.
  • 13-06-20

The courage to accept critics

Fascinating review of the Western and Chinese civilizations' interfaces. Although quite bias to my taste, the author reveals an important up-to-date view on the two major civilizations. The book is raising the most important question of our times - will these two great civilizations will find the way to build a better future for us all…
For those of you who find it hard to deal with critics on the Western Civilization as a whole and the USA specifically - do try harder, you need to read this book and pay attention more than others :)

8 people found this helpful

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  • Idanga
  • 07-04-20

A masterpiece

Great work! Instructive!i learned so much from his book. The US is just like other great powers, even worse. Thank you Mr. Mahbubani.

7 people found this helpful

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  • josette
  • 09-08-20

Ignores the long term Chinese strategy

The book is very interesting but acts as if the long term strategy to achieve hegemony doesn’t exist, making it come off as overtly sympathetic or intentionally misleading. It does have many good thoughts and ideas and is worth reading.

(It effectively assumes their behavior will be the same as it was during their rise as when they reach their height, which is not a wise assumption to make.)

6 people found this helpful

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  • Queen Candy J
  • 24-07-20

One of the most important books of our time!

As someone who is increasingly concerned about US-China relations, I felt the need to check out this book and I'm glad that I did. China has it's own rich history separate from Western history. The author gives tons of details and context about Chinese history and how it applies to their behavior today. Overrall, I got the impression that the author is a little more critical of the US than China but he doesn't let China off the hook for their mistakes and behaviors which have contributed to the decline of US-China relations. He covers China's problems in detail. I think he was more critical of US policies only because Americans sometimes don't look in the mirror and face reality. We prefer to imagine the morally superior ideal of America more than the reality that America often doesn't live up to it's ideals. And that's what this book mainly is: a reality-check for American audiences. The author ultimately doesn't answer the question in the Book's title. He describes several different paths both the US and China may take in the future and emphasizes that conflict between the US and China is 'avoidable'. I highly recommend this book...

6 people found this helpful

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  • DING MING YING 丁明英
  • 24-04-20

Great Book ! Well Written !

The US must try to avoid fighting the big superpower war with China; and to accept the inevitability of the rise of China. Rather than aim to outmuscle history, the US better to be like water and avoid a war, a confrontation that the US cannot possibly afford to wage, but also cannot afford to lose.

The US has accepted China at its worst. And it will have to appreciate China when at its best.

A great book by Singapore's Permanent Representative to the UN.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Sandy
  • 19-04-20

Great book marred by bad Chinese pronunciation

In a book about Sino-US relationships, I don’t think it’s too much to expect decent pronunciation for the few Chinese words scattered across the book.

Otherwise a fantastic book. Great content from a seasoned diplomat.

6 people found this helpful

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  • floppy
  • 23-05-20

very insightful

very interesting, as an american sometimes a little hard to hear, but I very much appreciate his point of view on these pressing global issues

4 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 14-07-20

Informative, skeptical, overly apologetic.

Pros: The US portion of this book is both truthful and thought provoking. Mahbubani provides readers with a great starting point for those who want to become more informed on rising tensions between US and China.

Cons: In my opinion, the author is overtly apologetic of China foreign policy and fails to properly address the potential downsides to neoliberal economic policy. The book also largely ignores the "middle income trap" and blames the tensions in Hong Kong on lack of affordable housing.

3 people found this helpful