Why the New Silk Roads are a ‘threat’ to US bloc

By Pepe Escobar posted with permission

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

Modern day traders on the ancient Silk Road track in Central Asia. Photo: Facebook

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.

A land route with myriad ramifications, through Central Asia, Afghanistan, Iran and Turkey, linking India and China to the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea, ended up coalescing into what we came to know as the Ancient Silk Roads.

By the 7th century, land routes and sea trade routes were in direct competition. And the Iranian plateau always played a key role in this process.

The Iranian plateau historically includes Afghanistan and parts of Central Asia linking it to Xinjiang to the east, and to the west all the way to Anatolia. The Persian empire was all about land trade – the key node between India and China and the Eastern Mediterranean.

The Persians engaged the Phoenicians in the Syrian coastline as their partners to manage sea trade in the Mediterranean. Enterprising people in Tyre established Carthage as a node between the Eastern and Western Mediterranean. Because of the partnership with the Phoenicians, the Persians would inevitably be antagonized by the Greeks – a sea trading power.

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.

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.

At the geographic heart of the Ancient Silk Roads, we had deserts and the vast steppes, trespassed by sparse tribes of shepherds and nomad hunters. All across those vast lands north of the Himalayas, the Silk Road network served mostly the four main players. One can imagine how the emergence of a huge political power uniting all those nomads would be in fact the main beneficiary of Silk Road trade.

Well, that actually happened. Things started to change when the nomad shepherds of Central-South Asia started to have their tribes regimented as horseback archers by politico-military leaders such as Genghis Khan.

Welcome to the Mongol globalization. That was actually the fourth globalization in history, after the Syrian, the Persian and the Arab.    Under the Mongolian Ilkhanate, the Iranian plateau – once again playing a major role – linked China to the Armenian kingdom of Cilicia in the Mediterranean.

The Mongols didn’t go for a Silk Road monopoly. On the contrary: during Kublai Khan – and Marco Polo’s travels – the Silk Road was free and open. The Mongols only wanted caravans to pay a toll.

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.

And the rest – North Atlantic hegemony – is history.

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.

Yet all the time there has been counter-pressure from the Eurasian Heartland powers. That’s the stuff of international relations for the past two centuries – peaking in the young 21st century into what could be simplified as The Revenge of the Heartland against Sea Power. But still, that does not tell the whole story.

Rationalist hegemony in Europe progressively led to an incapacity to understand diversity – or The Other, as in Asia. Real Euro-Asia dialogue – the de facto true engine of history – had been dwindling for most of the past two centuries.

Europe owes its DNA not only to much-hailed Athens and Rome – but to Byzantium as well. But for too long not only the East but also the European East, heir to Byzantium, became incomprehensible, quasi incommunicado with Western Europe, or submerged by pathetic clichés.

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), as in the Chinese-led New Silk Roads, are a historical game-changer in infinite ways. Slowly and surely, we are evolving towards the configuration of an economically interlinked group of top Eurasian land powers, from Shanghai to the Ruhr valley, profiting in a coordinated manner from the huge technological know-how of Germany and China and the enormous energy resources of Russia.

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 objective 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.

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 Union (EAEU), Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), BRICS+ and the BRICS’ New Development Bank (NDB), the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

Middle East pacifier

The Ancient Silk Road was not a single camel caravan route but an inter-communicating maze. Since the mid-1990s I’ve had the privilege to travel almost every important stretch – and then, one day, you see the complete puzzle. The New Silk Roads, if they fulfill their potential, pledge to do the same.

Maritime trade may be eventually imposed – or controlled – by a global naval superpower. But overland trade can only prosper in peace. Thus the New Silk Roads potential as The Great Pacifier in Southwest Asia – what the Western-centric view calls the Middle East.

The Middle East (remember Palmyra) was always a key hub of the Ancient Silk Roads, the great overland axis of Euro-Asia trade going all the way to the Mediterranean.

For centuries, a quartet of regional powers – Egypt, Syria, Mesopotamia (now Iraq) and Persia (now Iran) – have been fighting for hegemony over the whole area from the Nile delta to the Persian Gulf. More recently, it has been a case of external hegemony: Ottoman Turk, British and American.

So delicate, so fragile, so immensely rich in culture, no other region in the world has been, continually, since the dawn of history, an absolutely key zone. Of course, the Middle East was also a crisis zone even before oil was found (the Babylonians, by the way, already knew about it).

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).

What the New Silk Roads are proposing is wide-ranging, economic, interlinked 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.”



The Essential Saker IV: Messianic Narcissism's Agony by a Thousand Cuts
The Essential Saker III: Chronicling The Tragedy, Farce And Collapse of the Empire in the Era of Mr MAGA


  1. re ” Middle East was also a crisis zone even before oil was found (the Babylonians, by the way, already knew about it)….

    Prior to late-1840’s, petroleum (literally rock-oil) had long been widely known and even recorded in mineral surveys as of curious interest, but recoverable quantities were so sparse or dilute/contaminated that commercial/trade interest was negligible.

    That all changed when large, concentrated volumes were discovered to exist as slow-flowing, underground streams within sedimentary layers that could be tapped and collected (at first, in unlimited amounts at extremely low costs). That WOW! event happened AFAIK 1847-1848 at locations in Canada and US. and quickly became known around the world as the lighting fluid choice (lamp oil), then as lubricants, fluid for heat and steam-engines and then internal-combustion engines.

    I believe the Silk Road venues were deliberately set-back by powerful maritime interests that could rule more-or-less globally by maritime dominance using gunpowder, bribery/intimidation, gunpowder, and control of choke-points. Dare I mention assassination, too? That scene is changing as landed interests create equalizing forces that impinge on minds without brutality, such as appealing to the best there is in Mankind as opposed to the worst.

    • recoverable quantities were so sparse or dilute/contaminated that commercial/trade interest was negligible

      I would love to know what “Greek Fire” was made of.

      Most modern scholars agree that Greek fire was based on either crude or refined petroleum, comparable to modern napalm. The Byzantines had easy access to crude oil from the naturally occurring wells around the Black Sea

      Theories of Composition of Greek Fire

  2. The planned overland new Chinese Silk Road is a defensive strategy against US hegemony, that now uses banking sanctions and trade embargoes against any country that does not comply with its foreign policy objectives. Blocking of sea lanes by the US Navy is also a possibility to block Chinese container traffic if things get out of hand.

    The Chinese Plan is not a simple one in that it is very expensive in terms of labor and materials. However, China has plenty of both in terms manpower, and steel and concrete. Not only roads must be built, but also bridges and tunnels to create one continuous transport ribbon. Presumably, high speed rail could also be built along side the highway, plus oil and gas pipelines.

    It will also need service stations and hotels to provide overnight accommodation en route for drivers and passengers and links to nearby population centers.

    How the Chinese will finance this project has not yet been decided, but of course money to pay for it all is not a problem for China, since they create their internal currency the yuan without incurring debt. They also have $2.3 trillion in US dollar currency reserves to spend.

    • China is building a 1,300 bed hospital in Wuhan in one week!
      “In 2015 Chinese workers erected a 57-storey tower in just 19 days, and in 2018 a time-lapse video released by the Xinhua news agency purported to show 1,500 workers laying the track for a new railway station in southeast China in just nine hours”.
      How would they finance their projects? There is something called ‘work ethic’ which for the Chinese is something widely different from the Western one.
      “Right now construction workers are working around the clock at the site in Wuhan’s western suburbs.
      One of them, engineer Wu Zhizhen, told the AP news agency he was only taking five hours’ break a day.
      “As a Wuhan resident and a construction staff, I have an obligation to contribute all I can,” he said.

      “We have to get things done ahead of schedule.”

      • China funds infrastructure building by having its government owned central bank – The Bank of China – create their domestic currency the yuan with a computer keystroke without incurring any debt, that is then used to pay the government workforce. China’s government has zero debts, and it is in fact now the world’s largest creditor nation with $2.3 trillion of US dollar currency reserves.

        • @Kapricorn4
          Western private banks funds mortgages by creating money for that … without being in debt to anyone, thereby making themselves huge creditors. In case of UK credit for mortgages will be at level 2-3 times GDP. The money created is used for paying house construction workers = magically.

        • Credit creation is always accompanied by debt creation. The main difference is that if you deprive the public sector, ie the central bank and the Treasury to finance government spending, the government must rely on commercial banks to finance infrastructure projects – which they don’t do in most part but rather engage in asset price inflation, lending to the FIRE sector and corporate raiding. This privatization of credit creation raises the cost of living since it indebts the economy – at-large by creating a debt overhead galvanized through the magic of compound interest.

            • (from link https://www.congress.gov/bill/112th-congress/house-bill/2990/text)

              (19) The creation of money by private financial institutions as interest-bearing debts should cease once and for all.
              (20) Reclaiming the power of the Federal Government to originate money, and to spend or lend money into circulation as needed, …

              It is a mistunderstanding only FED (or only EU Central Bank) creates money. All banks create money out of thin air. “Fractional banking” banking does not exist. “Fractional banking” is the myth money lent out is something the banks have have in the first palce. Money creation is 10 times what we believe? In case of UK 6 * GDP has been created as money – easy to conclude. China will be roughly the same.
              Then afterwards the same money will be destructed when debt is ended.

              • In the US fractional reserve banking system, all private banks that are members of the federal reserve system have the authority to create money ex nihilo as interest bearing debt. The Basel III banking accords recommend that banks create a maximum of thirty times their reserves, but this is not mandatory. As the principal of a loan is repaid by the borrower, the banks delete it back out of existence, but they get to keep the interest, that must also be created ex nihilo as debt. This is the cause of inflation of the currency, that is equal to the weighted average of the interest associated with all money that is created as debt. Since 1913 when the US dollar was officially privatized, it has lost 99% of its purchasing power.

            • Which means that the real “original sin” of Western patriarchal civilization and its ever increasing emphasis on free individuality is the private control of money creation and lending by private interests for private profit. And the subordination of all central government to that private control. The poisoned seed of what we now call “capitalism.” I believe Michael Hudson dates this as having its inception at the very beginning of Western civilization and its “graduation” from the hegemony of the ancient Kings of the Middle East.

    • A BRI container train departed Xi’an on 24 December; crossing Kazahkstan, Russia and Ukraine before arriving in Poland 10 days later. (sourced at Chinadaily). A 9500 km trip.
      China’s rail infrastructure is complete: 140,000 km, of which 35,000 is high speed.
      As well as projects in Kazahkstan, they are also tunnelling through 10 mountains in next-door laos to eventually hook up at Vientienne.
      As Pepe states in the article, the New Silk Road will be a mass of inter-connected rail, road and sea routes.
      A common complaint thus far has been the use of a Chinese work force rather than employing more locals.

      • Probably if the Chinese would have employed more locals the works would have dragged on and on. Speed is of essence and the Chinese have the means and the wherewithal to ensure it.

  3. Gott sei Dank gibt noch klare Weise Koepfe in europaeische Journalismus, leider aber im Hintergrund und hoehstens im Internet. Wie lange noch ?? Es hat ja der Zensur im Internet angefangen, dagegen muss ein weg gefunden werden. Es war ein sehr genaue Bericht und Analyse ohne fake news.

    Google translate,MOD:

    Thank goodness there are still clear heads in European journalism, but unfortunately in the background and at most on the Internet. For how much longer ?? Internet censorship has begun, but a way must be found. It was a very accurate report and analysis with no fake news.

  4. Correct. And as overland transportation (rail, auto, pipes) steadily becomes cheaper and more competitive (both in time and money) the maritime transport will become just a part (instead of overwhelming part) of overall world economy. Considering a huge natural advantage of EuroASIA in every conceivable metrics (geography, demography, resources, etc) present maritime powers will eventually lose their present hegemony. Better to be ready for that instead of fighting a losing battle over it.

  5. https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/01/27/617225/IRGC-Salami-US-commanders-Soleimani-Basij

    “The top commander further stated that Iran’s enemies have already faced part of the “painful consequences” of Soleimani’s assassination and understood that they will receive “crushing and continuous” blows if they repeat such actions.

    Warning enemies against anti-Iran measures, Salami added, “If they continue this game, our responses will be totally different from [those in] the past, and their scale will also be different. They (enemies) will face new conditions, which they will not be able to manage and control.””

    Well in the heel of the US jet taken down in Aghanistan…

    Wild guess that it is somehow related ?


  6. Just to clear up some confusions about the financing of BRI projects:

    Here is a very good resource that delineates the plethora of sources of funding, including, most importantly, the international funds and banks which will invest in the projects as they roll out.

    China has altered its original plans and is making projects which are more “democratically” planned and developed, using multi-lateral planning and consultations to overcome any hint of hegemonic control or pressures on the emerging or developing countries involved.


    To point to these latter sources I’ll use this section of the article:

    The World Bank Group – The World Bank is an international financial institution, with 189 different countries as shareholders, that provides loans to countries to fund capital projects. The group is already deeply involved with countries along the BRI and works with the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) on its development projects. The World Bank has also pledged to invest about US$80 billion in infrastructure for BRI participants.

    Asian Development Bank (ADB) – The ADB is a multilateral development bank with 67 national shareholders. As the name implies, the bank focuses on investing in emerging Asia and has consequently taken part in projects through the BRI. The ADB also works with the World Bank and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

    Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) – The AIIB is a multilateral development bank formed with 56 members that are contributors with China has its largest shareholder followed by India and Russia. The AIIB has mostly been working conjointly with the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

    New Development Bank (NDB) – Created by Brazil, China, India, Russia, and South Africa the NDB aims to facilitate investment between and among the partners. A great part of its funding has been directed towards green energy investments.

    In other words, though inspired and led by China, the BRI should be thought of as Eurasian, Global and Multi-Polar, no longer just Chinese. Russia has integrated EAEU plans with the BRI, also. An important integration of coordination between Beijing and Moscow.

    • #1 recipient of funds is Israel

      Israel belongs to both AIIB, and SCO

      Funny that Israel is never mentioned in this thread.

      Chinese even call Israel their “Bridge-Head for Europe”

      • @Gandi

        And under several other names you keep spreading these lies about Israel and the SCO.

        The Chinese are entitled to have any relationship with any nation that serves its interest.
        They met many centuries ago on the Silk Road, maybe even earlier.
        Nothing unusual. They are building Haifa Port for the Jews and the BRI. It’s business. Nothing secret.
        They have high level integrated investments in technology within both countries, too. Nothing unusual or secret about that.

        Meanwhile, retract your repetitious bullsh*t about SCO.

        We don’t spread ignorance at the Vineyard.

  7. The only countries in Europe who can be “Atlanticist” are Britain, Spain, Portugal and France, who can be fully both. The Iberian countries and Italy can also go to an Africa-centered trade route. Everyone else is geographically pretty much forced to cooperate with Eurasia

    It’s interesting how the more naturally inclined a place is to be maritime, the more violent the populace gets. See the Americas, who are geographically forced to be maritime to participate in global trade. Scalping, sticking your hands into bullet ant nests, human sacrifice… The closer you get to the narrowest point, the bloodier it gets

    It’s as if, despite having no ocean-travelling capabilities, nature somehow knew they would profit the most from maximum aggression

    • When the original silk road to the far East from Europe was blocked by the Arabs(?) the voyages of discovery by ocean going ships originating in Portugal and Spain circumvented the problem by sailing round the Cape of Good Hope to the far East. Vasco da Gama sailed to India from Portugal, and Ferdinand Magellan circumnavigated the globe in 1519.

    • @Emo Kid,

      Russia’s stock market, #1 for 2019.

      Russia rated for Investments, #1 for 2020.

      These are Western ratings systems. Capitalists know where growth is coming and where to put their money.

      How does this mean, as you say, Russia is collapsing?

      Even Iran is contracting, not collapsing.

      As for Venezuela, they hit bottom and still function, still feed their people. But, collapse? They need to be rebuilt, but they are still standing. China and Russia are working to rebuild the economy. Hardest part of that is to set aside the ideology that made a lot of mistakes and create a system that can grow, exploit its own riches and deliver jobs, enterprises and social justice.

  8. I know my post can be considered duplicated because I already posted on Moveable Feast Cafe 01/27/2020. However, Pepe Escobar posts the report about Silk Road Diplomacy so I decide to post the link here again because I want raise the issue to get everyone notice on how dangerous Silk Road Diplomacy is to national security to countries in the Silk Road. This is the link:


    I personally don’t trust the Silk Road so much. I will repeat again: Chinese elites sweet talks are usually deadly poison.

      • Russia has a Jewish Autonomus Oblast in the Russian Far East. There had been talk of dissolving the JAO only a few years ago, then all that disappeared.

        As Asia rises, so does the Russian Far East, making a local land base for Israelism far more valuable than in the past.

        Israel is repositioning itself as an Asian nation, not Eurasian. Anyone reading Asiatimes .com can’t help but notice how often Israel booster portray Israel as the perfect partner. This may seem odd, until the JAO is taken into consideration.


        There used to be easily-found stories talking about Russia ending the Soviet creation, which was never necessarily fair to non-Jewish locals. Not anymore.

        More than likely Israel will try and leverage that they way the Zionists did Palestine during the Ottoman Empire in the coming decades.

  9. The belief in killer bacteria and deadly viruses is nothing but ideology. None of the previous virus scares — HIV-AIDS included — have justified any of the dramatic measures enforced (see from here: http://www.duesberg.com/articles/Duesberg%20et%20al_AIDS%20since%201984%20No%20evidence%20for%20a%20new%20viral%20epidemic%20not%20even%20in%20Africa_IJAE_2011.pdf).

    If the WHO praises the Chinese government as it does, one should take heed. The WHO is in reality an agency of big money and industry. The WHO never is on the side of the people ( see here: https://www.bmj.com/content/340/bmj.c2912 ).

    As long as China lacks the guts to confront popular yet mendacious scientific doctrines, they won´t fulfill the hopes one may hold about betterment of the status quo.
    check this, too: https://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2020/01/28/coronavirus-a-real-threat-or-another-scare/