F. William Engdahl
April 25, 2016
Over recent months I have often written about the potential of China’s strategic One Belt, One Road Eurasian and Asian infrastructure Great Project to act as a global economic transformer toward positive, sustained economic growth. It’s becoming clear by the day that strategic economic planners in Beijing have been working out specific details of how best to use the new high-speed rail infrastructure project spanning the vast space of Eurasia from Beijing across Russia and the states of the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union including Kazakhstan, Armenia, Belarus and on to the west to include, so far, states of eastern and central Europe. A series of recent agreements by Chinese companies in Kazakhstan gives a hint of the economic boom being planned.
As I have written in previous posts, China’s One Belt, One Road project, currently the largest real economy infrastructure project in the world, is not merely about building faster rail pathways from China across Eurasia’s vast landmass to Europe to hasten freight delivery times. It’s about transforming one of the previously most forgotten regions of the world into a vibrant and growing new economic space, about bringing technology and industry into some very backwater parts of Central Asia that also happen to be blessed with some of the world’s richest minerals concentrations. Without modern transportation infrastructure, those mineral and other riches lay dormant.
For China, the One Belt, One Road is also referred to as the New Silk Road, a reference to the ancient Eurasian overland trade routes and sea routes linking China trade to that of all Eurasia, the now-Middle East and on to Venice and Europe some two thousand years ago initiated by China’s Han Dynasty. At that time, the Silk Road routes went from China through India, Asia Minor, up through Mesopotamia to Egypt, the African continent, Greece, Rome, and even Britain. The northern Mesopotamian region, today Iran, became China’s closest partner in trade.
China, whose civilization was then far more advanced than that of Europe, sent to Europe paper, an invention of China during the Han Dynasty. They sent gunpowder, and increasingly, silk, along with the rich spices of the east. To date, the New Economic Silk Road project encompasses some 60 countries from Central Asia, Russia, Iran and on to Serbia and eastern European markets.
China’s ancient silk road enabled contact between Han China and the west and a flourishing trade and culture exchange some two thousand years ago
Earlier I commented on Chinese plans to route the rail projects of the Silk Road to enable more economic mining and export of gold, the world’s historically most beautiful of all metals.
By the time of the Roman Emperor Augustus, 27 BC – 14 AD, trade between China and the west was firmly established; silk, whose origins the Chinese kept a state secret, was the most sought commodity in Egypt, Greece, and, especially, in Rome. More than the mere trade in goods from East to West and back, the original Silk Road made possible a vast cultural exchange between peoples in art, religion, philosophy, technology, language, science, architecture. Every aspect of civilization was exchanged through the Silk Road along with the trade goods the merchants carried from country to country.
F. William Engdahl is strategic risk consultant and lecturer, he holds a degree in politics from Princeton University and is a best-selling author on oil and geopolitics, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.