Where China Meets India: Burma and the New Crossroads of Asia Review

Where China Meets India: Burma and the New Crossroads of Asia
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Where China Meets India: Burma and the New Crossroads of Asia ReviewBurma may be almost completely cut off from the West as a result of sanctions imposed against its military government but while the United States and its allies have been ignoring this relatively small, impoverished country it has been undergoing great change in recent years due to its geographical position between China and India, both of which are intent on expanding their influence. This is the main theme of Where China meets India, a new book by Thant Myint-U, the grandson of former UN secretary general U Thant. Thant's concerns are vastly different than those that preoccupy most American media covering Burma. He doesn't devote too much attention to the repressive policies of the government or Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace Prize winner and darling of the Western press. Instead he tries to give us a real portrait of the country, its people and the changes that are occurring there.
The book combines travel writing, history and current events. The author spent the majority of his time in the regions of Burma that border China and India. His analysis of the situation in Lashio, the northeastern province of Burma bordering on China's Yunnan province is fascinating for what it tells us both about changes in Lashio and Chinese ambitions in the region. He finds that the Chinese are slowly but surely bringing globalization into the region by building roads, extending electricity grids and penetrating the area's porous borders. Thant also looks at Indian interests in Burma but generally seems to believe that India has been less successful at expanding economically there than China. He believes that Burma seems destined to fall under the Chinese sphere of influence because the United States and its allies are not sufficiently interested in the country.
At the political level, Thant shows how both Chinese and Indian policy have recently worked to strengthen the government and make political change unlikely. India used to be a much stronger supporter of Burmese democracy while China hoped to see the communists assume power. Now both Beijing and Delhi have abandoned their former allies and seem willing to work with the regime if it will bring economic benefits. Thant predicts a new "Great Game" between the two rising powers where each will seek to gain the upper hand in developing Burma's resources and securing access to its markets.
There are some limitations in this book. Thant does not speak Mandarin so when he travels into Yunnan province in China he doesn't turn up quite as many new and interesting details as he does during his travels in his ancestral country. Nevertheless, this book deserves to be read by people with a serious interest in Asian politics. It exposes a little know facet of Asian politics that may one day have a much greater global impact than most in the West expect.Where China Meets India: Burma and the New Crossroads of Asia Overview

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