Book review: Rory Medcalf. 2020. Contest for the Indo-Pacific: Why China Won’t Map the Future

AuthorUday Patil
Published date01 April 2022
Date01 April 2022
Subject MatterBook Reviews
Book Reviews 171
help probe ‘what is at stake and especially the transitions underway’ (p. 294).
As with most anthologies, some chapters fit better in the analytic framework
than others while some topics remain largely underexamined. For instance, the
largely historical examination of India–USA relations against China does not fit
well with a contemporary comparison of women in China and Bangladesh.
Moreover, some subjects could have been explored, such as transnational terrorism
involving Bangladesh, security relations in South Asia or track II diplomacy
between South Asian nations and China. Nevertheless, scholars of South Asian
international relations and trade will find this an insightful framework and study.
Ryan Shaffer
Ryan Shaffer
Independent scholar
Rory Medcalf. 2020. Contest for the Indo-Pacific: Why China Won’t Map
the Future. La Trobe University Press. 320 pp. (Paperback). ISBN:
DOI: 10.1177/23477970221076773
In the twenty-first century, the geopolitical construct of the Indo-Pacific has
gained significant attention. It is emerging as the primary theatre of geopolitical
competition between the USA and China, and middle powers see both opportunities
and challenges in the region, on issues ranging from energy security to the
protection of the Sea Lines of Communications (SLOCs). In the context of the
Indo-Pacific, Australia, India and Indonesia are seen as the middle powers that
have stakes in how the geo-economics and subsequently the geopolitics of the
region pans out. With the world’s economic centre of gravity shifting towards the
east, Rory Medcalf’s book Contest for the Indo-Pacific: Why China Won’t Map
the Future is a timely endeavour to explain the complex interplay of competition
and cooperation that will significantly determine whether the region moves
towards cooperative prosperity or spirals down to conflict. The book makes an
attempt to comprehend the very concept of the Indo-Pacific and analyse whether
Indo-Pacific is an idea, a space of imagination or merely an articulated terminology
by other countries.
The book consists of nine chapters, divided into three sections, namely, ‘Past’,
‘Present’ and ‘Future’, with an introductory chapter. It emphasizes that the Indo-
Pacific reorients the conventional ‘Asia-Pacific’ term by including the Indian Ocean
in the geopolitical construct of the region. According to Medcalf, the comeback of
New Delhi in the game is crucial when it comes to the stability of the Indo-Pacific.
According to the author, the Indo-Pacific reflects an alteration in the approach by
the states to security, economics and diplomacy. He mentions that the ‘Indo-Pacific
is a means to serve different geopolitical agendas like US’ effort to hinder China’s

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