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  • E.G. Maladroit

'The New Silk Roads' - Nothing New

Frankopan’s ‘The New Silk Roads’ is a somewhat controversial coverage of the new trade relationships forming along old routes, as well as the latest stages of modern globalisation. Though widely labelled underwhelming (a not unfair criticism), I found it a perfectly enjoyable light read – it is still informative, even if superficially so.

The book would not be suited to an audience already well acquainted with 2015-18 world politics. It fails to live up to the claim it is a ‘re-examination’ of the period, as the information it covers is already accessible and somewhat obvious, with an absence of deep analytical reflection on it. Despite this, however, it is both comprehensive and well explained, making it perfect for most other audiences – both those, like me, who are young enough not to remember the politics at the time, or those simply hoping to gain a little bit of knowledge and an informed perspective. It has a tendency to feel more like reading a long series of interlocking news articles than anything – but rather than being a flaw this allows it an easy readability and makes it accessible to a range of audiences unfamiliar with the topic.

Another criticism I witnessed was that of its typically 'western intellectual' slant on the East (as something to be mysticised for its chaos and feared). Though this critique is somewhat warranted, as I noticed a couple of eyebrow raising comments (particularly those fearmongering about Russia and demonising the intentions of the Soviet Union in over simplistic and unsubstantiated accusations) I find it to be slightly an exaggeration, as these were few and far between. Generally Frankopan came across as unusually, and refreshingly, empathetic towards China, as well as willing to put a fair spin on most situations.

Overall, I found the book entertaining and easy – perfect for a light read, and not too demanding of your focus or your time. It is not profound, but it is informative and well explained.


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