Business and economics journalist Weiner (What Goes Up: The Uncensored History of Modern Wall Street as Told by the Bankers, Brokers, CEOs, and Scoundrels Who Made It Happen, 2005) looks at how wealthy nations in Asia and the Middle East are using shrewd investments to gain power on the international stage.
The author writes that many of these countries have successfully diversified their portfolios in recent years, investing widely in many different industries—most notably in energy-related companies—in countries all around the world. As might be expected, the book focuses heavily on China, which has lately become a worldwide economic powerhouse, as well as America’s largest creditor by far. Weiner looks at how China has used its financial clout to subtly but firmly influence its relations with the United States, as well as many other countries around the world, and he points out how China’s poor record on human rights has largely been diplomatically swept under the rug in the past few years. Middle Eastern countries, meanwhile, have also used their oil-based wealth to gain political advantage. In perhaps the most compelling section, Weiner examines how Libya used its considerable financial influence on the United Kingdom to help get convicted Libyan terrorist Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi released from a Scottish prison on compassionate leave in 2009—a move that many around the world, including the U.S. government, considered an outrage. The author reveals the ways that staggeringly wealthy countries are using their money to get what they want, both politically and economically, and his examples are consistently engaging and more than a little unnerving. His description of the U.S. Defense Department’s simulated economic “war games,” for example, in which China always comes out victorious, is an eye-opener. Weiner also examines changing investment strategies elsewhere, particularly Norway, which insists on investing in what it deems ethical companies, and how it is using its influence to try to change the behavior of corporations.
A revealing—and troubling—overview of the uses of money and power at the international level.