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A Silk Road View Of The World47:05

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Seeing the world — its history, its future — from another angle. From the East, and the old Silk Road

The cargo train travelled from eastern China through Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, arriving in the Iranian capital Tehran. (Photograph: Stringer/EPA)
The cargo train travelled from eastern China through Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, arriving in the Iranian capital Tehran. (Photograph: Stringer/EPA)

Long before Europe was ascendant, before the Americas were even discovered, the Silk Road was the center of the world. From China through Central Asia, Persia and on, this is where the action was. The world’s center of gravity. My guest today, Oxford scholar Peter Frankopan, says the action is moving there again. China is building a new Silk Road. Investing billions. Europe looks in retreat. This hour On Point, the Silk Road view of the world, again.

Guests

Michael Schuman, Beijing based journalist and author. Author of "Confucius and the World He Created" and "The Miracle." (@MichaelSchuman)

Peter Frankopan, historian at Oxford University, where is a senior research fellow at Worcester College and director of the Center for Byzantine Research. Author of the new book, "The Silk Roads: A New History of the World." Also author of "The First Crusade." (@peterfrankopan)

From Tom’s Reading List

Bloomberg Businessweek: China’s New Silk Road Dream — "For centuries the Silk Road, stretching across deserts, steppes, and mountains, linked the imperial dynasties of China with Europe. Chinese rulers used the thoroughfares to expand their power and influence deep into Asia. Today a newly assertive Chinese empire—this time, a communist one—is undertaking a gargantuan project to re-create those ancient trade routes and the political and economic clout that came with them."

Financial Times: China’s Great Game: Road to a new empire — "After two decades of rapid growth, Beijing is again looking beyond its borders for investment opportunities and trade, and to do that it is reaching back to its former imperial greatness for the familiar 'Silk Road' metaphor. Creating a modern version of the ancient trade route has emerged as China’s signature foreign policy initiative under President Xi Jinping."

Christian Science Monitor: Why is China trying to revive ancient Silk Road? -- "While most analysts agree that the initiative will expand economic activities for nearby countries spread along the traditional Silk Road, some are unsure about the feasibility of the plan, pointing to the political unrest and insurgency in areas along the route of the Belt and Road, including China’s autonomous Xinjiang Uighur region (XUAR) – the emerging core zone of the Silk Road Economic Belt."

Read An Excerpt Of "The Silk Roads" By Peter Frankopan

See Photos From "The New Silk Roads"

Sunrise In Taklamakan Desert, Xinjiang China (Getty)
Sunrise In Taklamakan Desert, Xinjiang China (Getty)
On a high valley terrace on the banks of the Zeravshan River, 6km from the modern town of Penjikent, are the ruins of ancient Penjikent, a major Sogdian town founded in the 5th century and abandoned in the 8th century with the arrival of the Arabs. The ancient city has not been built upon since. The foundations of houses, a citadel with a couple of Zoroastrian temples, and the city bazaar are visible in the excavated ruins, but the best of the frescoes (some of them 15m long), sculptures, pottery and manuscripts have been carted off to Tashkent and St Petersburg. (Getty)
On a high valley terrace on the banks of the Zeravshan River, 6km from the modern town of Penjikent, are the ruins of ancient Penjikent, a major Sogdian town founded in the 5th century and abandoned in the 8th century with the arrival of the Arabs. The ancient city has not been built upon since. The foundations of houses, a citadel with a couple of Zoroastrian temples, and the city bazaar are visible in the excavated ruins, but the best of the frescoes (some of them 15m long), sculptures, pottery and manuscripts have been carted off to Tashkent and St Petersburg. (Getty)
View of the Ark fortress, historic centre of Bukhara (Unesco World Heritage List, 1993), Bukhara, Uzbekistan. (Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images)
View of the Ark fortress, historic centre of Bukhara (Unesco World Heritage List, 1993), Bukhara, Uzbekistan. (Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images)
'North East Africa, Arabia, Persia and India'- map in Linschoten's 'Navigatio ac Itinerarium, etc.', 1599. Jan Huyghen van Linschoten, Dutch Protestant merchant, traveller and historian, 1563 – 8 February 1611. (Full title: 'Navigatio ac Itinerarium Johannis Hugonis Linscotani in Orientalem sive Lusitanorum Indian &c, Hagae-Comitis ex officina Alberti Henrici….Anno 1599. Folio'). (Photo by Culture Club/Getty Images)
'North East Africa, Arabia, Persia and India'- map in Linschoten's 'Navigatio ac Itinerarium, etc.', 1599. Jan Huyghen van Linschoten, Dutch Protestant merchant, traveller and historian, 1563 – 8 February 1611. (Full title: 'Navigatio ac Itinerarium Johannis Hugonis Linscotani in Orientalem sive Lusitanorum Indian &c, Hagae-Comitis ex officina Alberti Henrici….Anno 1599. Folio'). (Photo by Culture Club/Getty Images)
Astana's giant tent-shaped shopping centre, the Khan Shatyr. Astana, Kazakhstan, July, 2013. (Getty)
Astana's giant tent-shaped shopping centre, the Khan Shatyr. Astana, Kazakhstan, July, 2013. (Getty)
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