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Where China Meets India: Burma and the New Crossroads of Asia Hardcover – September 13, 2011
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[A] blend of personal reminiscence, history--enlivened with an eye for the telling anecdote--travelogue and polemic. (The Economist)
[Where China Meets India] possesses a heartfelt and welcome optimism, giving voice to a desire for connections that exceeds all notions of foreign policy, geopolitics or business and becomes, instead, about people encountering each other in all their glorious difference. (Siddhartha Deb, The Guardian)
Thant Myint-U makes clear in Where China Meets India [that] Burma's days as a neglected backwater are over. (Tim Johnston, Financial Times)
This is probably the best book written on Myanmar after 1988. It is a must-read not only for diplomats, political analysts and CEOs of multinationals but also for readers who enjoy racy narrative, fascinating accounts of a bygone era, of Shangri-La, kings and generals, intrigue and heroism, the Tarons, remnants of the only known pigmy race in mainland Asia, and the lives of common people in some of the remotest parts of the region in and around Myanmar. (Bhaskar K Mitra, Business Standard)
Thant's knowledge of Burma's history, peoples, cultures, and kingdoms brings focus to his travels through the area. The constant interplay between his experiences and knowledge of the region make this book a gem, with myriad rare insights. (Publishers Weekly)
An illumining look at a country torn between two emerging superpowers . . . In a whirlwind tour through Burma's history, politics, culture and geography, Myint-U makes a successful case for its importance in South Asia's future. (Kirkus Reviews)
Interweaving the history and geography of Burma (Myanmar) with a travel memoir, Thant (The River of Lost Footsteps: A Personal History of Burma) narrates the compelling story of his journey through this rapidly evolving region rich in culture and heritage . . . A highly readable and entertaining foray into the complex history of this ancient land, this book will be of interest to lovers of history and travel writing. (Allan Cho, Library Journal)
'Asia' is already the 21st century's most contested term. For some it represents a block comprising most of the world's population, for others a region rife with historical rivalries. In this engaging narrative, Thant Myint-U shows us how Asia is still under construction, with new ports, canals, railroads and passageways are knitting together a continent. Most interestingly, these new Silk Roads enjoin the world's two most populous nations, China and India, via Burma, a land of incredible diversity and promise, but also despair and risk. If the presumed geopolitical rivalries in Asia are to be averted, it will be by following Thant's road-map. (Parag Khanna, author of The Second World: Empires and Influence in the New Global Order and How to Run the World)
Where China Meets India is a rare find, an ambitious, comprehensive work that is at once entertaining and illuminating by a leading scholar on Burma. (Andrew Pham, author of The Eaves of Heaven: A Life in Three Wars)
About the Author
Thant Myint-U was educated at Harvard and Cambridge Universities and later taught history for several years as a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge. He has also served on three United Nations peacekeeping operations, in Cambodia and the former Yugoslavia, as well as with the United Nations Secretariat in New York. He is the author of a personal history of Burma, The River of Lost Footsteps.
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This book must be read by US diplomats, politicians and business leaders because the Sleeping Giant, aka China, has awaken and has made great inroads in Burma, a country which also holds strategic importance for the US and other Western economies. While Washington has come to the party late, it's better late than never and Burmese people will embrace Americans. This book provides context and deep insights as to why the Burmese people will embrace Americans, whose own nation too was once a British colony.
Through this book, one can see the parallels between Ancient Rome (and Greece) and Ancient Burma. This book is a call to diplomats and business executives from all nations to take heed of what China has been able to achieve in Burma and Yunnan. The players in the dysfunctional and inept Washington Establishment, particularly those in the Obama Administration, could learn tremendously from this book. As they say in academia, publish or parish. For Washington, it's get your HOUSE in order, or China will in fact become way too powerful.
This book shows why Burma, with its nascent democratic tendencies, should be embranced and helped by the West. Burma will soon assume a signficant role in the calculas that determines the balance of power among all major economies, including BRIC, USA, Europe and even the Middle East. This book helps one appreciate Burma's significance, which China has long realized and thus began ramping up its investments in Burma after the Cold War.
The book is densely packed with insightful facts, but easy to read.
The alternative with this volume is to put it in your bag, chuck in a few clothes then catch a plane to Yangon. Within a day you’ll be roaming a land of mile-wide rivers, ramshackle highways, and dirt mountain roads through what’s left of the once impenetrable Burma jungle.
Except, of course, that it’s not the “Burma” jungle anymore. Everyone except author Thant Myint-U now calls the country Myanmar and its biggest city – once known as Rangoon – is now Yangon. He says these are not really new names but simply the Burmese-language version of the old names. As Roma is to Rome and Warszawa to Warsaw, so he sticks to Burma and Rangoon. It’s his book after all and he can call them what he damn-well likes. Just as this is my review and I’m calling them Myanmar and Yangon!
What you will actually see in Burma/Myanmar is still a far cry from much of what Thant Myint-U predicted when he wrote this book. What was barely discernible in 2011 is now staring you in the face and Myanmar, long a jungle and mountain-strewn barrier between the civilisations of The East, is visibly becoming the new crossroads of Asia.
It links the world’s biggest communist nation, China, with its biggest democracy, India; gives China a port on the Indian Ocean; even opens dreams of a Eurasian land-bridge from Shanghai to Rotterdam.
In his view the West has missed the boat, or its launch at least, as Myanmar emerges from almost 100 years of stagnation. Its economic and cultural place has instead been seized by China and to a lesser extent by India.
To see all the wonders Thant Myint-U details you’d need to travel freelance to places conventional tourists can’t even dream about. The fabled township of Mong-La, for instance in the heart of the so called Golden Triangle; once the centre of the world’s drug trade and today one of the world’s biggest on-line gambling hubs with not a poppy to be seen.
That can’t be true, one thinks. Never heard of the place! Precisely. Myanmar is choc-full of things Westerners have never heard of, far less seen. It is a phenomenon of The East. The mysterious East of which Thant Myint-U writes as only a Burmese born in America, educated at Harvard and Cambridge can write. His book is a best-seller in Myanmar and won worldwide recognition, helped no doubt by the fact that U Thant, the famous UN Secretary-General, was his grandfather and that he is currently a close adviser to Myanmar’s President Thein Sein.
Myint–U sees Myanmar’s location between China and India as its trump card with only in-fighting between Myanmar’s various warlords and Western interference being an obstacle. He couldn’t have known this when he first wrote When China Meets India but only three months ago a great conference of all the dissidents signed an agreement to settle their differences.
Now all the country needs is a George Washington and an Abraham Lincoln and the Union of Myanmar will be truly united. Come to think of it, they’ve already had their Washington in General Aung San, father of The Lady and of Myanmar itself. He was assassinated for his pains but their current President Thein Sein is fitting into the Lincoln mould beyond anyone’s dreams.
The book sees Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and their neighbours as a country in itself rather than a motley of nations. And Chindia - China and India - he says are destined to reshape world politics and rock European conceits that they and America are all that matter.
Just as intriguing is his insight on The Lady, Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s famous Nobel Peace laureate who has sacrificed most of her life to bring democracy and peace to her land. Almost everything she fought for has been won. That includes her release from house arrest, a freedom that Myint hints she doesn’t quite know what to do with.
It’s not often one gets to know a country being re-born as you read, but this story is exactly that.
This book is a key guide to this increasingly important area, written in an easy-to-read yet highly informative style.
James A Hanson
Most recent customer reviews
Gets a bit too deep in the history at times with a level of detail that 99% of readers (myself included) will not absorb.Read more