The ancient Silk Road ran between Xi’an, the capital of China, and Rome, the capital of the Roman Empire. As Rome morphed into Europe and the Catholic Church, the trade slowed. The Silk Road closed and opened in spasms for another few hundred years but stopped for good with the Mongol invasions 800 years ago. At that point, land trade between Europe and China ceased. Until this week.
On April 10 - two weeks ago - a freight train left London traveling through the Chunnel under the English Channel, across Belgium, Germany, Poland, Russia, Kazahkstan and into China where it continued to its destination, Yiwu, China - near Shanghai on the coast. 7,500 miles in 18 days. The train was carrying pharmaceuticals, soft drinks, Scotch Whisky and other English goods. Reversing the trip, a train went from Yiwu to London last month. These trains will continue - and the route will expand into other European cities. The trains are faster than ships and less expensive than air freight.
The Daily Mail had a nice article and, per their usual, myriad photos of the train departure from London.
All this is being led and encouraged by China, seeking to create its own ties with other countries, separate from U.S. guidance. Indeed, China was refused meaningful participation in major international banks by the U.S. and started the Asia International Investment Bank in an effort to rival the World Bank and the IMF. And yes, Obama blocked China. The Silk Road trade project is one of the initiatives of this new bank. It is also connecting to the Middle East. And so, because this is not a U.S. led project, you are probably reading about this for the first time here. Our national news media has ignored it.
The reopening of the Silk Road is historically incredible. The trains go through one of the most important but little-known places in world history: The Dzungarian Gate. It is a gradual pass through the mountains of Mongolia and Eastern Asia that leads into Central Asia. It was used by the Huns, the Mongols and perhaps the Avars, and is the only track where whole communities can pass through the mountains with wagons, as the Huns and Mongols did. Now freight trains pass through and, hopefully soon, passenger trains. The Orient Express and the Trans-Siberian Express are awesome rail journeys. We may now soon have the Silk Road Express. What a train trip: London to Yiwu. May I be so lucky as to take that someday.
Not local news, but thought you might enjoy this hard-to-find bit of news. And thanks to my occasional Saturday morning coffee table mate, Fred, a retired world businessman and ethnic Chinese, for telling me about this.