The world is undergoing a geopolitical realignment—and the West isn’t quite ready for the consequences.
Donald Trump may be preaching a near-isolationist line in foreign policy, but in 2007, he was busily trademarking his name across the nations of Central Asia, Iran among them, “with the intention of producing name-brand vodka,” to say nothing of hotels and casinos. His vehicle, the Silk Road Group, “has subsequently become the focus of considerable media scrutiny,” writes Frankopan (Global History/Oxford Univ.; The Silk Roads: A New History of the World, 2016, etc.) in this engaging survey. If the intensity of American interest in some of those nations has lessened, other countries are paying attention—including, notably, China. Remarks one government official, “we Chinese often say that if you want to get rich, build roads first.” Indeed, China has been building new highways and railway lines throughout the country and beyond its borders, forging direct links with the lucrative markets of Europe and the rich resource-producing nations of Africa. In the latter, Djibouti makes an interesting case in point for Frankopan. Strategically located on the Horn of Africa, it is a natural terminus for highways that might one day radiate across the continent, and it is awash with foreigners: The U.S. has a military base there, but China is building one, too, while France and even Japan have troops there. Meanwhile, not to be left out of the enterprise, Russia has been working in neighboring Somaliland to establish a military presence and is now set on “helping the breakaway republic establish its independence from Somalia and be internationally recognised as a sovereign state.” The course of realignment seems clear and inevitable, and “trying to slow down or stop that change is an illusion,” Frankopan urges. Ignoring it doesn’t help, either….
Provocative reading for students of geopolitical and economic trends looking for a glimpse at the new world to come.