Re-globalizing the Silk Road: Towards a New 'Creative Destruction' in Eurasia

By ÖZTÜRK, İbrahim
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, February 9, 2015
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This paper is dedicated to propose a relevant philosophy and ideology for the idea of re-globalizing the ancient silk route across the Eurasian geography. Why do we need such a project? Why it might be a “win-win” game in the sense of providing fair opportunities to the participant countries?

There has been a lasting tension in the world between the forces of “order” and “disorder.” Generally speaking, with the passage of time established orders are increasingly captured and dominated by exclusive interest coalitions and therefore turns into a “statuesque.” On the other hand, dissatisfaction of losers fuels the sources of change for a better order.

The tension between the sources of order and disorder defines the particular characteristics of each era. Inefficiency of current global institutions and structure of the Cold War era in tackling with the emerging problems creates tension for change and a new order. Currently the following issues are among the sources of tension.

Legitimacy problem of the existing global institutions has resulted in lack of effective leadership and weak governance capacity for the emergent conflicts and crisis.

Long term stagnant and unbalanced global economy.

Lack of job creation and persistent high unemployment.

“Beggar-thy neighbour” policies and rising economic protectionism.

Global warming and environmental degradation.

Food and commodity shortages.

As a reaction to emerging issues, three scenarios co-exist: (i) The need for a free, fair, and well-integrated global economic system is obvious. (ii) Technological revolutions, radical jumps in innovation paradigms, and shift in inventions would help us coping with crises and conflicts that are triggered by severe resource constraints. (iii) Some regional wars, clashes and conflicts that are triggered and controlled by the big powers would continue to be so as to protect and maximize their interests.

In such a juncture, we need an effective leadership and structures so that demand for a new order is satisfied and well managed, so that we can march towards a peaceful and global “creative destruction”, so to speak in Joseph Schumpeter’s terminology. The old or non-functioning regime must be gradually “destructed” by concrete steps whereas, at the same time, the foundation of a new order must be “created” in an evolutionary manner. As a part of such a big picture, Asia is waiting for a new order as well.

First, despite the world is a quite small place, relative size of Asia in this world is very big in terms of geography, demography as well as diverse and ancient cultures covering Indian, Chinese, and Islamic civilizations.

Second, Asia is still poor and has many problems stemming from relative economic backwardness.

Third, current global or multinational institutions and organizations such as IMF, and the World Bank do not fit to the priorities and problems of such a diverse region.

The expected order that is needed across the Eurasia should have the capacity to push globalization and global integration even further. In this regard, the idea of re-globalization of the ancient silk-road with a totally new pattern and perspective would be a good point of departure. In history, facilities for connectivity, communication, and transportation on the ancient Silk Road resulted in the first version of globalization. The Silk Roads of land and maritime connected Asia and Europe long time ago, many travellers, navigators and explorers, as well as camel teams and fleets participated in the economic life with different kinds of commodities. Thanks to these two roads, countries in Asia, Africa and Europe learned from each other and promoted their respective prosperity through exchanges.

Having relied upon such a peaceful past, in 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping offered the initiation of The New Silk Road Economic Belt and The 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road. Land routes intended to start at Chinese border, passes through Central Asia and Russia to Europe, whereas maritime routes would start in Guangdong province en route to the Malacca Strait, the Indian Ocean, the Horn of Africa, the Red Sea and the Mediterranean, ending essentially in Venice. Referring to the land and sea routes together, I prefer to use the term “re-globalization of the Silk route” (RGSR)

What I would like to offer is the provision of an encompassing ideology for the re-habitation of the ancient silk routes. Image and perception might be important than the reality itself. As one biggest potential civilization project of the 21st century, we have to innovate a proper language and wording of the RGSR project in introducing it to the international community.

Obviously, dedicated leadership and provision of plenty of “money” are necessary but not sufficient condition to sustain such a project. For a “better world”, we need something free, fair, open, and participatory so that it would provide fair opportunities to all for the creation of global “commons”. The motto of re-globalization of RGSR should be like that: “with the world, for the word.” Therefore, as a part of such a peaceful ideology, Chinese leadership should give the proper messages that the RGSR is not targeting a Sino-Centric World order that serves to the historical dreams of the Middle Kingdom. Such a positive perspective would motivate an active and responsible participation and initiative of big global players as well as regional countries.

Not only from the view point of China alone, but also for the countries along the routes. The two Silk Roads bring enormous scale of the projects: the Silk Road and Maritime Silk Road combined would create a massive loop linking three continents. As underlined by the Chinese President, Mr. Xi, five goals for RGSR project can be mentioned: They are strengthening of economic collaboration, improvement of road connectivity, promotion of trade and investment, facilitation of currency conversion, and bolstering of people-to-people exchanges.

RGSR is not only economically compatible with many of the countries along the planned sea and land routes, provided that we can avoid from “politicizing” it, the Silk Route project could also help us to create an integrated community with “common interests, fate, and responsibilities.”

As viewed from the Turkish perspective, there have been living memories of the ancient silk route at almost every corner of the country from East to West, from North to South. Currently Turkey has an open economy and is fully integrated to the European economy with a working customs union. Moreover, thanks to her expanding free trade agreements, Turkey has extended trading networks with Central Asian states and with the countries in the Middle East and Africa. Like many other countries, China has become the largest trading partner of Turkey as of 2014. Therefore, Turkey has not got any negative concerns for the initiation of the silk route project. As a bridge between the three continents of Asia, Africa and Europe - at the most western part of Asia and at the most eastern part of Europe - Turkey wants to take advantage of modern 21st-century Silk Route to activate her ancient roles.

Prof. Öztürk has been Lecturer at faculty of economics at Marmara University and Asian Studies Center in Turkey. He taught at North American University as an Adjunct Professor during 2013-2014 period. Öztürk has been a columnist at Turkey’s most widely distributed and read daily newspaper “Zaman” and “Today’s Zaman” since 2006.

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