Too much of a good thing? Connectivity and the age of “unpeace,” with the ECFR’s Mark Leonard


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This week on Sinica, Kaiser is joined by Mark Leonard, founder and director of the European Council on Foreign Relations and author most recently of The Age of Unpeace: How Connectivity Causes Conflict. Mark talks about how despite the bright promise that increasing connectedness — whether in trade, telecommunications, or movements of individuals — would usher in a world of better mutual understanding and enduring peace, the reality is that this connectedness has made the world more fractured and fractious. He explains how the three “empires of connectivity” — the U.S., China, and the EU — each leverage their extensive connectivity to advance their own interests. He also unpacks his assertion that the world is coming to share China’s longstanding ambivalence toward connectedness.

1:05 – Kaiser tells how researching an abortive book project presaged Mark’s conclusion that familiarity can breed contempt

7:58 – How Mark came to be a deep ambivalence about connectivity

16:03 – The three “empires of connectivity” and how they leverage or weaponize connectivity

31:41 – How all the connected empires are taking on “Chinese characteristics”

41:41 – How the Russo-Ukrainian War fits into Mark’s framework in the book

51:49 – Chinese intellectuals and the shift in their thinking

A full transcript of this interview is available on


Mark: Chinese Hegemony: Grand Strategy and International Institutions in East Asian History by Zhang Feng

Kaiser: A Teacher in China Learns the Limits of Free Expression,” the latest piece by Peter Hessler in The New Yorker; and the Israeli spy thriller Tehran on AppleTV.