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In conversation with Clare Wijeratne: Geopolitical Expert and Author, James Crabtree

We were lucky to host a discussion with James Crabtree, author of ‘The Billionaire Raj: A Journey Through India’s New Gilded Age,’ and geopolitical expert who was until recently the Executive Director of the Institute of International and Strategic Studies (IISS) in Asia. James was formerly Mumbai Bureau Chief for the FT and worked in the UK Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit. The conversation spanned US-China relations, the impact of global de-coupling on climate change and economic security and, fittingly for World Book Day, what it is like to write a book and to read 50 books in a year. 

Students and faculty enjoyed a lively discussion at the Institute with Ms Clare Wijeratne and asked questions about Singapore’s role in US-China relations, what it is really like to work in government, examples of effective policy, and how much legal advice he needed when writing a book about India’s billionaires! James discussed historical context for the global balance of power and the relationship between the US and China. The session delved into the impact of these tensions on multilateral dialogue on key issues of climate change, preparing for future pandemics, global business, trade and security. He shared his experience of the IISS Shangri-La Dialogue, which is held in Singapore, and he and Ms Wijeratne shared their insights from experience in the UK government, on what it is really like working with government officials and trying to effect change.

The audience was curious to find out more about his decision and motivation to be an author. James shared that his work in India inspired the book and that writing it was often an isolating experience that required a lot of persistence and discipline. He enjoyed the challenge and is working on his next book. To wrap up the discussion, he challenged the students to read more, saying that he had challenged himself to read 50 books in a year and succeeded!

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