Sinostan: China’s Inadvertent Empire by Raffaello Pantucci and Alexandros Petersen

Oxford University Press (14 April 2022)

sinostan coverBased on more than a decade’s writing, research, and travel, this book offers a rare glimpse into China’s expanding economic, cultural, and political power in the Eurasian heartland.

China’s rise is changing the world. Much attention has been given to how China’s geo-economic vision is playing out in the global economy, or how its technology is reshaping the planet, yet it is over its western borders, in Central Asia, that China’s influence has been quietly expanding in a more pervasive way. It is here that you can find the first strand of Xi Jinping’s grand Belt and Road Initiative, China’s new Silk Road to the West. It is to the Eurasian heartland that we can look for an understanding of China’s new foreign policy vision and its consequences.

In Sinostan, two acclaimed foreign policy experts recount their travels across Central Asia to keep their finger on the pulse and tell the story of China’s growing influence. They interview Chinese traders in latter day Silk Road bazaars; climb remote mountain passes threatened by construction; commiserate with Afghan archaeologists charged with saving centuries-old Buddhist ruins before they are swept away by mining projects; meet with eager young Central Asians learning Mandarin; and sit with officials in all five Central Asian capitals, bearing witness to a region increasingly transformed by Beijing’s presence. Their stories and experiences illustrate how China’s foreign policy initiative has expressed itself on the ground, and what it means for those living both within and beyond the boundaries of its ‘inadvertent empire’.

‘We Love Death as You Love Life’: Britain’s Suburban Terrorists by Raffaello Pantucci

C Hurst & Co Publishers Ltd (2 Mar. 2015). Available in UK (Hurst) and US (Oxford University Press).

'We Love Death as You Love Life': Britain's Suburban TerroristsAs Mohammed Siddique Khan led his group of fellow-believers into London on the morning of July 7, 2005 it is unlikely that they were thinking much beyond the immediate impact of their actions. Driven by anger at the West’s treatment of Muslims worldwide, ideas fed to them by foreign extremists, and a sense of extreme rejection of the society in which they were born, they sought to reshape the world in an image they thought would be pleasing to God. But while they felt they were on a holy mission — as enunciated in Khan’s chilling video message, ‘We Love Death As You Love Life’ — a far more earthly arc of history underlay their actions. This book offers an insight into the motivations behind Khan and his group, as well as the hundreds of young British Muslims who have been drawn by jihadist ideas to fight on battlefields at home and abroad. Starting with the arrival of immigrant communities to the UK and the establishment of diaspora communities with strong ethnic connections to the Middle East and South Asia, to the arrival of jihadist warriors fresh from the anti-Soviet war Afghanistan, this book looks at the history that came before Mohammed Siddique Khan and places his action within its larger context. Based on research conducted while the author was working as an academic in London, this book offers the first comprehensive history of jihadist ideas and violence in the United Kingdom.


‘Mr. Pantucci’s book an indispensable resource for understanding Britain’s continuing Islamist terrorist threats and the sub-cultures that sustain them’ — Joshua Sinai, Perspectives on Terrorism

‘Pantucci’s approach allows readers to form their own opinion. He tells the long story without any personal judgement, ‘eschewing the polemical approach often favoured in the discussion of terrorism’. In fact, it becomes rather like a whodunit. Just as we begin to convince ourselves that the cause of radicalization must be racial discrimination, or urban deprivation, or social alienation, it becomes apparent that, while one of many factors, none is uniquely crucial in all cases.’Tim Willasey-Wilsey, International Affairs

‘This is a sensible, well-documented study of how jihadist organizations recruit young Britons, perhaps because it relies on sound data to understand the perspective of the extremists. Pantucci convincingly rebuts common explanations for the rise of militant Islam among British youth, such as economic exclusion and the influence of hard-line clerics.’Andrew Moravcsik, Foreign Affairs

‘Why are some British Muslims tempted by political violence? Anyone curious should consult Raffaello Pantucci’s sober, informative and nuanced “We Love Death As You Love Life”: Britain’s Suburban Terrorists.’Sameer Rahim, Prospect

‘The most articulate and carefully researched account of Britain’s “suburban terrorists” to date.’Sam Jones, Financial Times

Pantucci has produced a useful chronicle of every terror plot down to and beyond the 7/7 London bombings, whether they involved major networked conspiracies or lone-wolf actors like the mad boy Nicky Reilly, who in 2008 blew himself up in the lavatory of the Exeter branch of Giraffe with a homemade nail bomb. . . Well-written.’Evening Standard

‘The first comprehensive account of Britain’s suburban terrorists.’Dominic Kennedy, The Times

‘Raffaello Pantucci has written a sober, detailed, and invaluable assessment of Islamist radicalisation in the United Kingdom. Britain may be a multi-cultural society, but not everyone feels part of it. Pantucci throws down the challenge: understand what is happening and act accordingly.’Jon Snow, broadcast journalist, Channel 4 News

‘Interesting and accessible enough to keep the attention of the general reader, this book will help an international audience understand the story of UK Islamist terrorism and will provide experts with sound analysis and the chance to read for the first time the full story in one volume. Pantucci avoids the tendency of more politically biased commentators to blame the terrorists radicalisation on either British foreign policy, poverty and islamophobia or radical foreign preachers, an evil ideology and multiculturalism. Instead, through in-depth research into the personalities involved in the UK terrorist plots, the author shows that no single one of these explanations is sufficient but that all have played a role in motivating some of Britain’s suburban mujahedeen.’Innes Bowen, BBC; author of Medina in Birmingham, Najaf in Brent: Inside British Islam

‘Raffaello Pantucci carefully details how over several decades Britain came to develop its own mini-jihad. He gives a vivid and at times shocking description of the formative experiences of Britain’s self-appointed Muslim warriors. Essential reading for anyone who wants to understand how religious, political, social and broader cultural narratives combined to end in murder on the streets of Britain.’Professor Sir David Omand, King’s College London and former UK Security and Intelligence Coordinator

‘A compelling narrative of the origins and evolution of violent Islamism in the United Kingdom, its precipitants — ideology, grievance and mobilisation — and ever expanding geographical reach. Its lively pen portraits of the main perpetrators amounts to an indispensable A to Z of the individuals, groups and organisations involved. Essential reading for policy maker, specialist and citizen alike — Muslim and non-Muslim.’Philip Lewis, Inter-Faith Adviser to the Bishop of Bradford and author of Young, British and Muslim

‘This book will be one of the definitive texts on the study of radicalisation for years come — well researched, articulate, and rich in understanding. We Love Death as You Love Life provides the kind of detailed, rich analysis which is important for students, policy makers and any one with an interest in how radicalisation in Britain actually works.’Jonathan Githens-Mazer, Associate Professor in Ethnic-Politics, University of Exeter


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