The Modern Silk Road

Sino-Gulf trade is booming as the world's two most liquid economies create a host of new alliances that are shifting the world's economic center of gravity.

Christian Charity, Korean Style

South Korean churches are competing to provide humanitarian aid to their compatriots in the atheist north. It's harder to give help than it should be.

China’s Underground Banks

Nobody knows exactly how much money changes hands in China's unofficial banking sector, but the private sector would grind to a halt without it.

The Golden Hordes

China's surprisingly steely retail investors are snapping up billions of dollars of foreign assets.

Wall Street Hot on Weapons Makers

It may be too soon to talk about a global arms race, but the shopping spree is on. Nations of the world are buying weapons at the fastest pace since the Soviet Union collapsed 16 years ago. In 2005, according to the latest U.S. government data, the value of signed weapons agreements reached $44.2 billion, up more than 43 percent since 2001 and more than at any time since the cold war ended in 1991, when the figure hovered in the $50 billion range. The global arms bazaar got even busier in late July, when the Bush administration announced it would offer some $20 billion in new weaponry for its Gulf allies, with the lion's share for Saudi Arabia. Largely unnoticed was that Riyadh, its eyes cast warily on rival Iran, already has $28 billion in arms purchases in the pipeline from European suppliers.The implications are as big as the deals. While the U.S. spends more money on new weapons than all other nations combined, it is no longer doing so at the brisk pace it was in the first few...

In America's Image

You wouldn't think of it as a bastion of economic liberalism. But in the last few years, Syria, Washington's archnemesis and the final, symbolic frontier of Baath Party socialism, has swung open its once shuttered economy with a neoliberal flourish. Where once there were only risk-averse, state-run banks, private lenders are now doing a brisk trade. New investment laws are stimulating foreign direct investment and a simplified tax code is boosting state revenues. Interest rates are low, and a stock market is slated to open in August. The result: 5.6 percent GDP growth this year, up from 5.1 percent in 2006. "For the first time in decades, the Syrian economy is open," says Jihad Yazigi, editor of the economic bulletin the Syria Report.Damascus may have strained ties with Washington, but it has no qualms with the Washington consensus—the formerly fashionable free-market formula for developing-country growth celebrated during the Clinton era. The consensus, which basically touts free...

Mideast: The New Muslim Brotherhood

Zeki Bany Arshead is the Muslim Brotherhood's new man in Amman. The general secretary of the Islamic Action Front, the Brotherhood's Jordanian chapter, might be expected to spout the rhetoric of his predecessors—heavy on Qur'anic injunctions and talk of a Pan-Arabic Islamic "caliphate." So what's all this about democracy? "Our minimum demand," he says from his businesslike offices in downtown Amman, "is for freedom of expression and assembly, real elections with multiple parties, rule of law, an independent judiciary and a free press."This isn't your father's Muslim Brotherhood. It's still the world's oldest and largest Islamist movement. But as with Arshead himself, these days it's gone heavy on populism—and light on God. Known as the Ikhwan in Arabic, renowned for its conservative and often backward ways, it now counts women as members. Once wary of engaging in the parochial rough-and-tumble of politics, it increasingly collaborates with non-Muslim and even secular groups pushing...

The Quiet Exodus from Iraq

He sits in an unheated two-room apartment furnished with plastic chairs and begrimed here and there with mold. Dandling his infant son on his knees, he wears the exhausted, vacant look of a man living on the edge, scrounging daily to make ends meet and feed his wife and young family. For Iraqi physician Nafa Abdul-Hadi, the road to exile and dispossession began in his spacious apartment in an affluent Baghdad neighborhood and has ended here in the tenements of Jordan's east Amman. Threatened with beheading by militants, the 50-year-old radiologist decided last July to abandon his practice and joined the mass migration that is looting Iraq of its most vital asset—an accomplished and once dynamic middle class.As little as a year ago, the number of affluent Iraqis fleeing the sectarian holocaust of Iraq for neighboring Jordan and Syria was still relatively small, scarcely more than a few dozen daily. Today it is a veritable exodus of white-collar professionals who, along with their...