The Silk Roads

AuthorAlan Chong,LHM Ling
Published date01 September 2018
Date01 September 2018
Subject MatterEditorial
The Silk Roads: Globalization
before neoliberalization:
Introduction to the special issue
Alan Chong
S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University,
LHM Ling
The New School, USA
The Silk Roads globalized our worlds millennia ago. They began with trade trickled from Han
China in 2nd century BCE and ended only when the Europeans broke into the spice trade in the
15th century CE. The landed Silk Roads joined present-day China, Kazakhstan, Russia, Turkme-
nistan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, India, Iran, Afghanistan, Ukraine, and Belarus before meeting up
with eastern, central, and western Europe. The maritime Silk Roads took in ports that straddled
present-day Vietnam, Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Iran,
and the Gulf Arab states, and continued on to Alexandria, Venice, Genoa, and Cadiz in the
Mediterranean, after a short overland transit through the Arabian Peninsula.
But the Roads signified far more than a strip of geography. They were conduits for commerce,
barter, and trade from long ago and far away. They were also a way of life in a world-of-worlds
enriched by exchanges and flows, languages/religions/goods, despite frequent conflicts and con-
testations. 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 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 way of life.
Borders, for instance, did not matter then like today. Emperors, khans, sultans and kings
sought control over various parts of the Silk Roads, to be sure, but none dared to interfere with
them. Their empires needed the Roads to stay in power. At the same time, the porousness of
borders facilitated extensive inter-cultural contacts that celebrated difference and diversity, often
internalized in the most intimate ways. The transmission and acceptance of major religions like
Corresponding author:
Alan Chong, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore 639798,
Asian Journal of Comparative Politics
2018, Vol. 3(3) 189–193
ªThe Author(s) 2018
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/2057891118793735

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