We are pleased to share another new post from former ICI Fellow L.H.M. Ling (2008-2010) in the Huffington Post. In her latest piece, “New World Making: China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ Policy”, Ling looks at China’s ambitious new “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR) policy and what it means for the future of Asia.
It’s another Great Game!, critics charge. OBOR retells an old story: a newly muscular China is contending for hegemony with other great powers like the US, Europe, and Russia. Central Asia and the Indian Ocean constitute the “pawns,” “rooks,” and “knights” on the board. Local “kings” and “queens” may mark the game but only the Great Powers can play it. China’s claim of “mutual complementarity” and “win-win” scenarios under OBOR covers for a Sino-centric division of labor. China acquires what it lacks while selling what it has – none of which helps local development. In fact, critics imply, OBOR is repeating what the West has done to the Rest since the 15th century. We’ve seen this movie before.
But hold on. Why the Silk Roads? What’s the significance of these ancient, segmented trade routes for massive, contemporary investments of labor and capital, concrete and steel? What does it mean for China to revive, both economically and politically, those areas of the globe that have fallen into dusty neglect since medieval Europe re-routed the spice trade?
The Silk Roads, after all, lasted more than a millennia. They represented more than a strip of geography, a venue for commerce, barter and trade from long ago and far away. They also enriched our world-of-worlds with exchanges and flows, languages/religions/goods, despite frequent conflicts and contestations. The Roads brought merchants, pilgrims, monks, soldiers, and nomads in contact with princesses, nuns, shamans, scribes, and settlers. The long, arduous, scenic, adventurous, death-stricken, awe-inspiring routes mandated interdependence, and perhaps reverence for wisdom and insight, learning from the signs and the esoteric, and a basic degree of humility and adaptability that led to a non-individualistic, non-predatory approach to living.
You can read the full article here.