Where China Meets India Burma and the New Crossroads of Asia

Thant Myint-U

Farrar, Straus and Giroux



Trade Paperback

400 Pages



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From their very beginnings, China and India have been walled off from each other: by the Himalayas, by a vast jungle, by hostile tribes and remote inland kingdoms stretching a thousand miles from Calcutta across Burma to the upper Yangtze River.

Soon, this last great frontier will vanish—the forests cut down, dirt roads replaced by superhighways, insurgencies crushed—leaving China and India exposed to each other as the countries never have been before. This basic shift in geography—as sudden and profound as the opening of the Suez Canal—will lead to unprecedented connections among the three billion people of Southeast Asia and the Far East, and transforming what was once a remote region into a geopolitical center of the world.

What will this change mean? Thant Myint-U is in a unique position to know. Over the past few years, he has traveled extensively across this territory, where high-speed trains and gleaming new shopping malls are now coming within striking distance of the last far-flung rebellions and impoverished mountain communities. And he has explored the new strategic centrality of Burma, where Asia's two rising, giant powers appear to be vying for supremacy.

At once a travelogue, a work of history, and an informed look into the future, Where China Meets India takes us across the fast-changing Asian frontier, giving us a masterful and timely account of the region's long and rich history and its sudden significance for the rest of the world.


Praise for Where China Meets India

"A bold thesis that places . . . Burma at the geopolitical heart of Asia . . . An American-born Burmese scholar, Thant Myint-U has written extensively on Burma and is well-placed to explore the possibilities. His book is divided into three sections, covering Burma, China and India respectively. He blends ancient and modern history with current-day political analysis . . . Beyond its central narrative, Where China Meets India can be read as a treatise against the sanctions imposed on Burma by Western governments. These have pushed Burma ever closer to China, argues Thant Myint-U . . . His argument against sanctions is not laid out on moral grounds (there is little about the Burmese regime's extensive human-rights abuses within these pages) but is instead part of a pragmatic look at future prospects. On the unfolding new map of Asia, Thant Myint-U notes, Burma will be the only country without access to Western markets and Western learning. It's a potentially destabilizing imbalance of influences that should lead Western policy makers to review the effectiveness of sanctions and to put Where China Meets India on their required reading lists."—Emma Larkin, The Wall Street Journal

"A superb introduction to this region and the way Burma will play a key role in the emerging relationship between India and China . . . Thant Myint-U's book is quietly optimistic about the future of Burma, and he leaves his reader to ponder the extraordinary geographical changes under way on the Asian mainland."—Grant Evans, The Times Literary Supplement

"[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

"‘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
"Interweaving the history and geography of Burma (Myanmar) with a travel memoir, Thant narrates the compelling story of his journey through this rapidly evolving region rich in culture and heritage. Since the earliest days of China and India, parts of each nation and Burma have made up an expansive frontier that stretches across the Himalayas, made up of jungle, hostile tribes, and remote inland kingdoms. The book reveals that, since World War II, as Burma's once impenetrable land of forests and roads has been replaced by shopping malls, cosmopolitan cities, and a modernized economy, this region of many cultures and religions has experienced a tectonic shift. Examining Burma from its days as a colony to its current status as a modern nation-state, Thant reveals just how important this small nation has become to China and India as they position themselves for supremacy in the 21st century."—Library Journal
"Focuses on his home country of Burma, and the area encompassed by a diameter of 1,000 miles drawn from the city of Mandalay on the edge of the Shan Plateau, Thant suggests that this corner of the world (with a population of 600 million) is destined to become a bridge between Bengal, Bangladesh, India's North Eastern Provinces, and China's Yunnan province. As China moves down to the coast, the pipelines, refineries, hydro-electric dams, and transmission lines presently under construction are setting the stage. Thant foresees conditions in which both Burma's military rulers and India will seek to balance China's outreach, with a flowering of economic potential as a possible result. Thant's knowledge of Burma's history, peoples, cultures, and kingdoms brings focus to his travels through the area."—Publishers Weekly

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Read an Excerpt

WHERE CHINA MEETS INDIA (Irrawaddy Dreaming)
Before there was Rangoon, there was the Shwedagon pagoda. The legend goes something like this. Twenty-five centuries ago, two merchant brothers named Tapussa and Bhallika met the Buddha, by chance,...

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  • Thant Myint-U on recent developments in Burma

    The International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance interviews guest lecturer Thant Myint-U about the future of democracy in Burma and the region.



  • Thant Myint-U

  • 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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    Thant Myint-U