China, Buddhism, and trade – copper to soy beans along the new Silk Road

May 12, 2018


Perhaps the most lasting legacy of the Silk Roads has been their role in bringing cultures and peoples in contact with each other, and facilitating exchange between them.


For thousands of years, extensive trade networks crisscrossed the great expanse of Eurasia between ancient Chinese empires and the civilizations surrounding the Mediterranean. Known by historians as the Silk Road, this network actually consisted of numerous routes on both land and sea. While trade across this region never really stopped, the collapse of the major civilizations that occupied the region over the millenia certainly reduced trade traffic to a comparative crawl.


Now, China is seeking to reinvigorate the Silk Road corridor by financing enormous infrastructure projects across the region. Nicknamed the One Belt, One Road initiative, China is seeking to become the dominant trading partner in this important region. China’s recent infrastructure investments already have had an effect on the cultural heritage of the area. At Mes Aynak in Afghanistan, China’s interest in a developing a large copper deposit there led to the discovery (or rediscovery) of an enormous Bronze Age archaeological site, testament to the important role of Buddhism in the region. UNESCO has developed an initiative to help expand cultural dialogue across this historic route. (The schematic map above showing ancient Silk Road routes is in the public domain.)


Now China’s efforts will dwarf the outlay of infrastructure investments from the West, particularly when the United States has recently announced renewed sanctions against Iran that will limited western dollars from entering the country. China speeds ahead, however, as this new train to Tehran illustrates.



China’s new train line to Iran sends message to Trump: We’ll keep trading anyway

By Rick Noack

The Washington Post

May 11, 2018


Also see

The Economist Explains: What is China’s belt and road initiative? The many motivations behind Xi Jinping’s key foreign policy

By J.P., Beijing

The Economist

May 15, 2017


Archaeological Dig Resumes at Mes Aynak

By Jawid Zeyaratjaye


April 12, 2018


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