The Silk Road: A path that connects China and Europe beyond millennia

silkroadIIA lot is being currently said about China’s ‘One Belt One Road’ policy. This is policy aims at revitalising the ancient Silk Road. The Silk Road was the main trade road in the region of Eurasia, which crossed  the Middle East and Central Asia for centuries, also connecting China and Europe. On the whole, it constituted the sum of numerous interconnected trade roads, in which  trade and cultural exchanges among diiferent civilisations – from China until the Mediterranean – were accomplished.

The creation of Alexander the Great Empire and of  the Roman Empire in the West as well as the ermegence of the Chinese dynasties of Ch’in and Han in the Far East were substantial factors  the ancient Silk Road concept.  Although the great distance dividing Europe and China and continuing conflicts hindered the harmonious function of the Silk Road, it played a significant role in global history from the Late Antiquity until the Late Middle Ages. That is because it brought together the civilisations of Europe and Asia also being the main land trade route in the global trading system. aas professor Christopher  Beckwith writes in his revealing book  Empires of the Silk Road,  ‘the Silk Road, if we examine its history, it can’t be considered just a international trade road. There were the social-political and financial systems in the region of Eurasia, that connected and grafted the two most important international systems of the Antiquity and Middle Ages, the systems of Mediterranean and Far East..

Moreover, the control of the Silk Road was the cause of contention among the largest empires in the history of Eurasia. Historical conficts – such  as the Battle of River Talas in 751 A.D.. between the Arab Caliphate of Abbasids and the Chinese dynasty of Tang – took place in regions it covered. The ancient silk route remained highly important for the global economy until the 18th century. At that time, the new maritime routes of the European empires altered correlations in the world trade systhem.

Despite the decline of the ancient Silk Road, its new version largely attracts interenational attention. That is because the term ‘new Silk Road’ has started to be widely used.

Konstantinos Papanicolaou