Frankopan’s precursor, ‘The Silk Roads’, stands as one of the most important history books of the last decade. Frankopan is able to, with considerable candour and eloquence, upend traditional accounts of the relationship between East and West, one which is too often inaccurately skewed in the favour of the West and does not reflect how dominant Eastern thoughts and ideas have been to the rise of the West. ‘The New Silk Roads’ continues on from ‘The Silk Roads’ and focuses on the re-emergence of the East, in particular China, but also India, Iran and the former Soviet states which sit on the silk road. However, whereas the poetic streak which ran through the original book has been replaced by a far dryer, more utilitarian style, once focused more on GDPs than culture, on infrastructure spend than art.
Perhaps this is partially a reflection of the nature of the extraordinary growth in the East over the last few decades, however I feel the book would have benefited from an exploration on how the unshackling of the East from the chains of colonialism has led to it fulfilling its considerable potential or of the reemergence of alternative Eastern cultures against the backdrop of Western cultural hegemony.
Nevertheless, ‘The New Silk Roads’ offers a prescient analysis of the potential decline of the West, whether it is via the isolationist policies of Trump or the return of authoritarian rulers within so many liberal countries. Frankopan also skilfully explores the importance of soft power and how the increasingly erratic behaviour of the American government has led to a steep decline in its importance, as well as how the increasingly inward and insular policies of many Western countries do not reflect the ever-increasing importance of cooperation in a increasingly globalised world.