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The New China Road

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Book Reviews
The New Silk Road: How a Rising Arab World is Turning Away from the West and Rediscovering China
BEN SIMPFENDORFER Basingstoke, Hampshire, and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009 201 pp. $42.00 ISBN 978-0-230-58026 doi:10.1017/S030574101000072X

The New Silk Road is an insightful, concise (173 pages of text), and thoroughly readable book. The focus is not on energy investments and flows or on government policy, but on business and cultural strands of the Sino-Arab relationship. As a China economist for both JP Morgan and RBS in Hong Kong, and with years of residence in the Arab world, Simpfendorfer has written a book which is rich in detail and cogent in diverse interesting arguments. It is a pleasure to read. The thesis is that we are witnessing the re-emergence of an old but long-lapsed economic and cultural relationship between China and the Arab world. Prior to about 1600 the “silk road” was a major axis of the global economy. Now it is reviving and that revival is an important part of the “global re-balancing” that is underway. Global re-balancing is defined to mean a diminution of the relative economic and cultural role of the West (Europe and the US) and growth of non-Western areas, like China and the Arab lands. The major manifestation of Arab rise, according to Simpfendorfer, has been the massive transfer of wealth to Arab oil producers in the 2000s as oil prices rose due, in large part, to increased demand by China and India. Simpfendorfer believes those price increases will remain relatively constant (with slumps reflecting business cycles) for coming decades as developing countries (again, China and India) industrialize. The “silk road” is an emotive symbol for both Arabs and Chinese, evoking memories of times before their respective humiliation by the West and when both were centres of world power and wealth. But it is more than a…...

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