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The Middle East is the key to wide-ranging, economic, interlixed integration, and peace


Under the cascading roar of the 24/7 news cycle cum Twitter eruptions, it’s easy for most of the West, especially the US, to forget the basics about the interaction of Eurasia with its western peninsula, Europe.


Asia and Europe have been trading goods and ideas since at least 3,500 BC. Historically, the flux may have suffered some occasional bumps – for instance, with the irruption of 5th-century nomad horsemen in the Eurasian plains. But it was essentially steady up to the end of the 15th century. We can essentially describe it as a millennium-old axis – from Greece to Persia, from the Roman empire to China.


When the Chinese, promoting the New Silk Roads, emphasize “people to people exchange” as one of its main traits, they mean the millenary Euro-Asia dialogue. History may even have aborted two massive, direct encounters.


The first was after Alexander The Great defeated Darius III of Persia. But then Alexander’s Seleucid successors had to fight the rising power in Central Asia: the Parthians – who ended up taking over Persia and Mesopotamia and made the Euphrates the limes between them and the Seleucids.


The second encounter was when emperor Trajan, in 116 AD, after defeating the Parthians, reached the Persian Gulf. But Hadrian backed off – so history did not register what would have been a direct encounter between Rome, via Persia, with India and China, or the Mediterranean meeting with the Pacific.


Mongol globalization

The last western stretch of the Ancient Silk Roads was, in fact, a Maritime Silk Road. From the Black Sea to the Nile delta, we had a string of pearls in the form of Italian city/emporia, a mix of end journey for caravans and naval bases, which then moved Asian products to Italian ports.

古丝绸之路的最后一段往西部延伸,实际上是一条海上丝绸之路,从黑海到尼罗河三角洲,我们有一个以意大利城市 / 商业中心为形式的珍珠链,这是一个结束旅程的大篷车和海军基地的混合体,将亚洲商品运往意大利港口。

Commercial centers between Constantinople and Crimea configured another Silk Road branch through Russia all the way to Novgorod, which was very close culturally to the Byzantine world. From Novgorod, merchants from Hamburg and other cities of the Hanseatic League distributed Asian products to markets in the Baltics, northern Europe and all the way to England – in parallel to the southern routes followed by the maritime Italian republics.


Between the Mediterranean and China, the Ancient Silk Roads were of course mostly overland. But there were a few maritime routes as well. The major civilization poles involved were peasant and artisanal, not maritime. Up to the 15th century, no one was really thinking about turbulent, interminable oceanic navigation.


The main players were China and India in Asia, and Italy and Germany in Europe. Germany was the prime consumer of goods imported by the Italians. That explains, in a nutshell, the structural marriage of the Holy Roman Empire.


With the Turks, it was a completely different story. They consolidated Turkestan, from Central Asia to northwest China. The only reason Tamerlan did not annex India is that he died beforehand. But even the Turks did not want to shut down the Silk Road. They wanted to control it.


Venice lost its last direct Silk Road access in 1461, with the fall of Trebizond, which was still clinging to the Byzantine empire. With the Silk Road closed to the Europeans, the Turks – with an empire ranging from Central-South Asia to the Mediterranean – were convinced they now controlled trade between Europe and Asia.
Not so fast. Because that was when European kingdoms facing the Atlantic came up with the ultimate Plan B: a new maritime road to India.

1461年,随着特拉比松( 译注:Trebizond,土耳其港口城市名)的陷落,威尼斯失去了丝绸之路的最后一条直达通道,这座城市仍然依附于拜占庭帝国,随着丝绸之路对欧洲人关闭,拥有从中南亚到地中海的帝国的土耳其人确信他们现在控制着欧洲和亚洲之间的贸易。

Enlightened arrogance

The Enlightenment could not possibly box Asia inside its own rigid geometries. Europe ceased to understand Asia, proclaimed it was some sort of proteiform historical detritus and turned its undivided attention to “virgin,” or “promised” lands elsewhere on the planet.


We all know how England, from the 18th century onwards, took control of the entire trans-oceanic routes and turned North Atlantic supremacy into a lone superpower game – till the mantle was usurped by the US.


The Raging 2020s may signify the historical juncture when this bloc surpasses the current, hegemonic Atlanticist bloc.


Now compare it with the prime US strategic obxtive at all times, for decades: to establish, via myriad forms of divide and rule, that relations between Germany, Russia and China must be the worst possible.


No wonder strategic fear was glaringly visible at the NATO summit in London last month, which called for ratcheting up pressure on Russia-China. Call it the late Zbigniew “Grand Chessboard” Brzezinski’s ultimate, recurrent nightmare.

难怪上个月在伦敦举行的北约峰会上,战略恐惧显而易见,峰会呼吁加大对俄罗斯和中国的压力,称之为已故的兹比格涅夫的“大棋盘” ,布热津斯基终极的、反复出现的噩梦。

Germany soon will have a larger than life decision to make. It’s like this was a renewal – in way more dramatic terms – of the Atlanticist vs Ostpolitik debate. German business knows that the only way for a sovereign Germany to consolidate its role as a global export powerhouse is to become a close business partner of Eurasia.


In parallel, Moscow and Beijing have come to the conclusion that the US trans-oceanic strategic ring can only be broken through the actions of a concerted block: BRI, Eurasia Economic unx (EAEU), Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), BRICS+ and the BRICS’ New Development Bank (NDB), the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

与此同时,莫斯科和北京得出结论,美国跨洋战略环只能通过一个整体的协同行动来打破:一带一路(BRI) ,欧亚经济联盟(EAEU) ,上海合作组织(SCO) ,金砖国家 + 和金砖国家新开发银行(NDB) ,亚洲基础设施投资银行(AIIB)。

Middle East pacifier

The Middle East is a key stop in the 21st century, trans-oceanic supply chain routes – thus its geopolitical importance for the current superpower, among other geoeconomic, energy-related reasons. But its best and brightest know the Middle East does not need to remain a center of war, or intimations of war, which, incidentally, affect three of those historical, regional powers of the quartet (Syria, Iraq and Iran).

但中国最优秀、最聪明的人才知道,中东不需要继续成为战争中心,也不需要继续暗示战争,顺便说一句,这会影响到四方中的三个历史性、地区性大国( 叙利亚、伊拉克和伊朗 )。

What the New Silk Roads are proposing is wide-ranging, economic, interlixed integration from East Asia, through Central Asia, to Iran, Iraq and Syria all the way to the Eastern Mediterranean. Just like the Ancient Silk Roads. No wonder vested War Party interests are so uncomfortable with this real peace “threat.”