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The rise of emerging markets in the global economy has sparked a great deal of discussion, particularly in the wake of the worldwide financial crisis. The implications are often framed in terms of the potential impact on the economies of the U.S. and Europe - for instance, business leaders discuss whether emerging nations' consumers might be interested in purchasing American products, or whether European telecom operators can counter stagnation in their own markets by investing in new mobile networks in Asia.
But a closer look reveals a separate trend that could shift the economic focus away from the West. Emerging markets are building deep, well-traveled networks among themselves in a way that harks back to the original "silk road," the network of trade routes between East Asia, the Middle East, and southern Europe, some dating to prehistoric times and others to the reign of Alexander the Great. Most of these routes were central to world commerce until about 1400 AD, when European ships began to dominate international trade.
Today's new web of world trade is broader and more diverse than the old silk road.
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