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 Published 1 October 2015 Updated 1 October 2020 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.

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