Indo-Pacific Empire

China, America and the contest for the world's pivotal region

By Rory Medcalf

Indo-Pacific Empire


  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-5078-3
  • Pages: 320
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £20.00
  • Published Date: March 2020
  • BIC Category: United States of America, USA, China, Society & social sciences / Geopolitics, Society & social sciences / International relations, POLITICAL SCIENCE / International Relations / General, POLITICAL SCIENCE / Geopolitics, HISTORY / Asia / China, HISTORY / United States / General


The definitive guide to the world's most contested region.

The Indo-Pacific is both a place and an idea. It is the region central to global prosperity and security. It is also a metaphor for collective action. If diplomacy fails, it will be the theatre of the first general war since 1945. But if its future can be secured, the Indo-Pacific will flourish as a shared space, the centre of gravity in a connected world.

What we call different parts of the world - Asia, Europe, the Middle East - seems innocuous. But the name of a region is totemic, guiding the decisions of leaders and the story of international order, war and peace. In recent years, the label 'Indo-Pacific' has suddenly gained wide use. But what does it really mean?

Written by a globally-renowned expert, Indo-Pacific Empire is the definitive guide to tensions in the region. It deftly weaves together history, geopolitics, cartography, military strategy, economics, games and propaganda to address a vital question: how can China's dominance be prevented without war?


'The Indo-Pacific is an idea whose time has come. Rory Medcalf has been crucial to both defining and promoting the idea of an Indo-Pacific region - and has now written a fast-paced and fascinating guide to this vital strategic concept.'
Gideon Rachman, chief foreign affairs columnist for the Financial Times and author of Easternisation and Zero-Sum Future

'Rory Medcalf gives us a fast-paced ride around the world's newest, and most important, strategic arena. He has done more than anyone to introduce the world to the idea of the Indo-Pacific and this book is a convincing manifesto for a new vision of connectedness. This is the world with all the difficult bits left in.'
Bill Hayton, author of The South China Sea: The Struggle for Power in Asia, and Associate Fellow, Chatham House

'The complexities of our region can easily bewilder those used to the Manichaean simplicity of the Cold War. Rory Medcalf's book is an elegant, and keenly insightful, tour of the Indo Pacific's strategic horizon.'
Malcolm Turnbull, former Prime Minister of Australia

'Tightly organised and appealingly written, this is a superb primer on this potential economic juggernaut. A must-read.'
James R. Clapper, former US Director of National Intelligence

'For the many nations finding their way around an unpredictable America and an assertive China, this book offers new choices from an ancient map. It holds ideas with power.'
Peter Hartcher, political and international editor of The Sydney Morning Herald

'Rory Medcalf was among the first few to see the unfolding integration of the Pacific and Indian Oceans and unpack its strategic significance amidst the widespread scepticism that greeted the concept. This book offers deep insights into the origin of the idea, deconstructs the power dynamics shaping the region and delineates potential pathways to limit the conflict. A rich and rewarding read for any one interested in a region that promises to define the geopolitics of the twenty-first century.'
C. Raja Mohan, Director, Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore

'Rory Medcalf helped to pioneer the concept that Asia's emerging geopolitical order would best be understood as a fusing of the Indian and Pacific Oceans into a new Indo-Pacific framework. With this book he explains the rich tapestry of emerging regional dynamics and the evolution of a geopolitical concept that has been embraced by maritime Japan, India, Australia and the United States but contested by continental China. Medcalf makes a compelling case that the competition to define "Asia" is about more than just a name - it is about ideas, alignment and power. Medcalf's book is essential reading for any scholar or practitioner seeking to understand the geopolitics of a region that will define all our futures.'
Michael J. Green, Center for Strategic and International Studies and Georgetown University

'A tour de force of 21st century geopolitical analysis that should be read by strategists and statesmen throughout the region and the world'
Asian Review of Books

'This engaging mental map of the Indo-Pacific and its regional origins is a rare security studies book that treats economics and ideational elements as integral to the challenge China poses for front-line states like Australia. All of us struggling to understand great power competition need to become ambidextrous if we are to develop policies to cope with a rising - or a collapsing - China, and learning from Rory Medcalf's book is a great place to start.'
Kori Schake, Deputy Director-General, International Institute for Strategic Studies

'How does the world balance China's emergence as a global superpower? What are the risks ahead? How do nation states dilute China's hegemony and avoid capitulation to its interests? These and other pressing questions are examined in Rory Medcalf's elegant and absorbing book. . A nuanced and subtle assessment of emerging power struggles in the region, with a strong focus on China. Optimistic, yet realistic about the possibilities of war and conflict, this is an essential guide for anyone-politician, policy specialist or informed citizen-interested in the future of the region.'
Books + Publishing

'Elegant and absorbing . Optimistic, yet realistic about the possibilities of war and conflict, this is an essential guide.'
Bookseller & Publisher

'A vital contribution to this important ongoing discussion'
Penny Wong, Senator for South Australia

'A letter to the Indo-Pacific that is fundamentally optimistic about the role that Australia can play . A deeply insightful and timely contribution.'
Marise Payne, Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs

'Medcalf is an intellectual who writes like a journalist . He is a thinker who has helped redefine Australia's region and the scope of that region.'
Graeme Dobell, The Strategist



1 Of Names, Maps and Power


2 A Submerged History of Asia
3 Odyssey of Nations: The Quest for a Regional Home
4 Rise of the Indo-Pacific


5 Games and Giants
6 Many Players
7 Across the Waterfront
8 Far-Flung Battle Lines


9 Navigating Mistrust


Rory Medcalf is a Professor and Head of the National Security College at the Australian National University. His experience as an Australian diplomat includes postings to New Delhi, Tokyo and Papua New Guinea. He was a senior strategic analyst in Australia's peak intelligence agency, the Office of National Assessments, reporting to the Prime Minister. He was the founding director of the international security program at the Lowy Institute. He has published and been quoted widely in academic journals and all major Australian newspapers as well as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times, The Economist, The South China Morning Post and The Hindu, as well as on the ABC, BBC and CNN.

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