Australia does not have a great tradition of writers producing books on international affairs for a general audience. Along with others like Hugh White, Michael Wesley – a former head of the Lowy Institute now based at the Australian National University – is helping to correct this.
His previous work, There Goes the Neighbourhood: Australia and the Rise of Asia (2011), won the John Button Prize for writing on public policy and politics. Wesley's latest book, Restless Continent: Wealth, Rivalry and Asia's New Geopolitics, has some similarities with that earlier work. Both are concerned with the nature and future of Asian economics and geopolitics, and how these are influenced by history and culture; and both are written in an energetic, accessible style. But whereas There Goes the Neighbourhood was focused more on Australia's role in Asia, Restless Continent concentrates on Asia's internal dynamics. The result is a sober, though not depressing, work.
Asia, according to Wesley, is being shaped by two 'trends' (an increasing economic interdependence and 'strategic claustrophobia') and two 'conditions' (a cultural sensitivity to hierarchy, which leads to rivalry, and a fluctuating military balance of power playing out in a distinctive geography).