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Saturday, 2 January 2010

Review: China and Iran: Parallel History, Future Threat?, Edward Burman (2009)

The area known as Central Asia is awakening and its neighbours, China and Iran, are developing close ties. The author, a China resident and long-time Iran resident, is uniquely placed to comment on the future. He's also well versed in the past. The book looks both back and forward as it develops themes, the most important being resentment of third-world countries such as these toward past humiliations.

It may be true that colonialism has led to the two countries chronicling similar pasts. What is important to remember, says Burman, is that these similarities draw the nations together as they negotiate the present, and plan for the future.

China's new model of governance has received coverage recently, most memorably on The 7.30 Report a couple of days ago. In the program, a US-based academic warned that China's anti-Enlightenment attitudes constitute one of the most dangerous elements in modern geopolitics. Other third-world countries that aspire to economic independence can draw on China's experience when developing policies, he said. This tendency can lead to unpleasant outcomes for activists in those countries.

In the case of Iran, China offers both a source of capital and a source of advanced technology. Iran offers China cheap energy. Burman says that this equation causes their foreign policies to coalesce, especially important considering China's permanent seat on the UN Security Council. When asked to sanction Iran's nuclear program, he says, China treads softly.

A point to remark on, however interesting the themes and topics covered in the book, is Burman's sometimes erratic syntax. Sentences lose the thread on occasion, which tires the reader. There is also a need for a bit more professional editing as errors of grammar and dropped articles reduce legibility.

Overall, a good book for the holidays. It's the kind of book you want to read when you've got some free time, and when the regular media is in low gear as journalists take a well-earned break from their labours.

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