William Achauer’s Speech at CCG Seminar on Asian 21st Century

January 11 , 2022


On Tuesday Jan 11, 2022, the Center for China and Globalization (CCG) held a seminar featuring renowned diplomat-turned-scholar Kishore Mahbubani to release his new book “The Asian 21st Century”, as part of CCG’s “China and Globalization” series in partnership with Springer Nature.

A special address was made by William Achauer, Editorial Director of Springer Nature.



Full text of his remarks is as below:

Good afternoon, everyone. My name is William Achauer. I’m Editorial Director at Springer Nature, and I’m based in Singapore. I lead a team of publishing editors based across the Asia-Pacific region covering the fields of business, economics, political science, and law.

I have been residing in Singapore for the past 8 ? years. I’ve worked for Springer Nature for just a bit more than 17 years. I’ve now been present as an employee of the company on three continents. I started at Springer New York in 2005 as marketing manager for Springer’s clinical medicine publishing program. Before that I resided in New York for more than a decade, and I originally come from Dallas, Texas, where I was born. In 2007 I moved to Heidelberg, Germany, to run marketing for the Springer mathematics, computer science, business/economics and law publishing programs. A bit later I spent a year leading a part the German language marketing for our organization, and then in the year 2011 I was asked to lead an initiative to build up a marketing team across the Asia-Pacific. It was in October of that year that I first visited Beijing to conduct some job interviews. I also subsequently visited Tokyo, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Singapore, and New Delhi frequently over the course of 2012 and 2013.

While I enjoyed the life in Germany working for a such a reputable scholarly publishing organization, it would soon become clear to me that I personally wanted to relocate to Asia. I got the chance to do that in the autumn of 2013, and I would become a publishing editor for business and economics, and I would be based in Singapore. At the time I covered the Southeast Asian region, as well as South Korea.

My work as a publishing editor afforded me the opportunity to get into moving conversations with Asian scholars about their books and journal proposals, and to experience the dreams and ambitions the new Asian century was creating for these scholars. A couple of years later I was given the opportunity to lead a team of Asia-Pacific based publishing editors in China, Japan, Southeast Asia, and Australia. I was delighted to have the chance to visit China and Japan again as part of my work and to meet scholars at leading academic institutions, publishing houses, and think tanks in those countries. I can say that the business travel was consistently a joy. In 2019 I was able to visit India again when the publishing editors in New Delhi joined my Asia-Pacific team.

I’d now like to pivot my talk a bit to Ambassador Kishore Mahbubani’s new book, “The Asian 21st Century”. It is no surprise to witness yet another terrific volume publishing in “China and Globalization”, the open access book series edited by Wang Huiyao and Lu Miao. Ambassador Mahbubani presents in his authored volume a 360-degree feedback of the global status quo in international relations. In several essays at the start he analyzes a variety of aspects about the end of Western global domination, followed by a selection of chapters dedicated to the Asian rebirth that include insightful contributions on ASEAN and India. A section on the peaceful rise of China follows from there, and the last part of the book looks at globalization, multilateralism, and cooperation.

After reading several chapters in the book, viewing various interviews with Ambassador Mahbubani, as well as his moving Ted Talk “How the West can adapt to a rising Asia”, I feel I’ve learned new aspects about international relations, as well as solid and wise advice for various players on the world stage. One very central piece of critical thought about the end of Western domination in the world that struck me is the problem of plutocracy in the U.S. Ambassador Mahbubani lays out the case for this so clearly in the context of the “Sea of Despair”, or the bottom 50% of Americans whose average incomes have declined over the past three decades in contrast to other developed and developing nations. This “Sea of Despair” was the result of resentment towards perceived elites, whether they were on the left or the right wing of American politics, and we all know now that somebody decided to take advantage of that situation. In the context of government for the 1% by the 1%, I don’t know the recipe for the restoration of American democracy, but plutocracy has presented a major challenge, especially as America continues to be in decline. I personally think it’s going to take even more than U.S. voting rights legislation and the restoration of the acceptance of free and fair U.S. elections to save American democracy.

Moving towards the discussion of ASEAN, Ambassador Mahbubani often speaks about this geographical space as the most diverse region on the planet that is, thankfully, a largely peaceful place. He also mentions that ASEAN, as well as India, might feature as effective intermediaries in the geopolitical competition between China and the U.S. He stresses that ASEAN, in its peaceful development, prefers a China-US relationship that is positive and collaborative. Without positive collaboration between the world’s biggest superpowers, battling the menace of climate change becomes virtually impossible, or at least it is under a massive challenge without that cooperation. It is a theme that is also quite central to Wang Huiyao’s and Alistair Michie’s edited volume “Consensus or Conflict: China and Globalization in the 21st Century” that was launched at CCG in Beijing last September.

In his writings and interviews, Ambassador Mahbubani often stresses that superpowers in decline by default don’t want to give up their status and will, by nature, try to maintain their power and influence. This has been the case throughout world history. In his Ted Talk from April 2019 he spoke about the end of the Cold War and the reaction to it by the Western powers. Bringing into context the famous article by Francis Fukuyama, “The End of History”, he stated that the West naively thought they didn’t have to change. Liberal democracy to them had simply prevailed. Fast –forward more than 3 decades later, we all know this is not the case, and we need to do a lot more to advance multilateralism to sustain our interconnected, prosperous and peaceful global village.

Thank you.


Keyword William Achauer