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The New Silk Roads

The Present and Future of the World

By Peter Frankopan
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  • Contains 7 key ideas
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The New Silk Roads by Peter Frankopan

The New Silk Roads (2018) explores current affairs and political trends from an Eastern perspective. Using up-to-date examples and staggering statistics, the blinks explain the complicated global relationships and alliances at play in international relations today.

Key idea 1 of 7

Newly wealthy Easterners are buying up Western trophies and shaking up the travel industry.

In past centuries, wealthy Englishmen would flock to places like Rome and Venice as part of an extravagant travel tradition known as the Grand Tour. While abroad, they often snapped up expensive pieces of local culture to bring back to England. Precious objects such as sculptures, paintings and exquisite furniture were bought and shipped back home. But how could they afford such trophies? Simply because military and commercial accomplishments had transformed England into a vastly wealthy worldwide superpower.

But at the dawn of the twenty-first century, everything has changed. The world’s center of economic power is shifting from the West to the East. Consequently, international trophy hunting still goes on, but the people indulging in it are no longer English. Instead, they are wealthy citizens of countries such as China and Russia.

Significantly, the modern-day trophies the new, non-Western elite covet are the football World Cup tournament, which has been snapped up in recent years by Qatar and Russia, the Winter Olympics, which was also held in Sochi, Russia in 2014, as well as magnificent, Western art galleries. For instance, when the Louvre wanted to open a new museum, they didn’t pick Paris, they chose Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. London’s Victoria and Albert Museum plumped for Shenzhen, China, when deciding where to put their new museum.

And the trophy hunting doesn’t stop there. World-famous English stores such as luxury department store Harrods and toy shop Hamleys, as well as influential newspapers like London’s Evening Standard, are all in the hands of owners from Emirati, Russian or Chinese backgrounds.

Interestingly, the Eastern world’s economic rise has other consequences that will affect Westerners far more than simply losing ownership of their most famous brands.

For instance, over the last 30 years, there has been a five-fold increase in Chinese tourists’ spending abroad. This spending has risen $500 million to a whopping $250 billion annually, twice as much as American tourists now spend abroad. This will have a huge impact on the tourism industry. Everything from airlines and online booking agents to the style of rooms in hotels, to what drinks are on offer in hotel bars is changing to reflect the rise of tourism in China. This recalibration of the travel industry will only accelerate since Chinese tourism is still in its infancy. Just one in 20 Chinese people have passports currently; there is plenty of room for more Chinese tourism.

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