21st century Silk Road

The Silk Road – a name invented by a romantic German geographer, Ferdinand von Richtofen, in 1877 – is most likely a misnomer. Its historic importance lies not in the number of bolts of silk carried by soft-footed camel caravans, but in the two-way traffic of ideas and technologies. Religions – Buddhism and Islam – moved east, while the Chinese technique of paper making filtered westwards.

The World Today Updated 7 December 2018 Published 1 October 2015 1 minute READ

Alan Philps

Former Editor, The World Today, Communications and Publishing

China’s vision of a Silk Road for the 21st century – the subject of our cover story – will bring billions of dollars in investment in roads and railways. As Nicola Casarini explains, the vision of connecting China to Europe is tempting to the Old Continent, which spies a lifeline to drag it out of its financial morass.

But every temptation carries a cost. Hans Kundnani and Angela Stanzel sound a warning against excessive economic dependence on China.

The challenges facing the EU are covered in three articles. Kate Connolly reports on how Angela Merkel is staking her legacy by welcoming a flood of migrants. Iain Begg looks at Europe’s costly welfare spending – and provides ammunition to challenge critics who want to hack it back. Charles Grant casts his mind back to the 1980s when Europe laid the groundwork for its troubled currency, the euro. He notes five design faults but concludes that the real change now has to come in Berlin.

Our interviewee is the author Yuval Harari, who told the 70,000-year history of mankind in his bestseller Sapiens. The future of our species, he warns, could be one of unimaginable inequality, with the rich using biotechnology to make their children healthier, smarter and more creative. It is up to us to make politicians set limits on this brave new world.