Why the Ural Mountains Are (Not) So Important, the New Silk Road through Eurasia

Published, on Dissident Voice, by Gary Leupp, Nov 26, 2016.

The Border between Europe and Asia:

The Ural Mountains run north to south roughly from the Arctic Ocean to what is now the border between Russia and Kazakhstan, about 400 miles north of the Caspian Sea. They separate Western (or European) Russia from Russian Siberia. So they don’t define national boundaries or separate cultures; they merely divide one country. They just happen to be a rather humble, 1600 miles long mountain range, with the highest mountain just 6000 feet high. These are no Himalayas, Rockies or Andes. They’re more like the Appalachians … //

… There are, of course, reasons to conceptualize Europe as a unit, which have nothing to do with this abstract Europe, tendentiously posited as the fountainhead of freedom versus all kinds of oppression characteristic of an essentialized East. For one thing, Christianity after 312 came to unify almost all of Europe by the late Middle Ages; and despite Muslim inroads, some of them temporary, into the Iberian and Balkan peninsulas, Sicily and the Caucasus, it has largely shaped European culture ever since and over all (despite the Wars of Religion accompanying the Reformation of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries) a more unifying than divisive force historically … //

Russia, between Europe and Asia: … //

So there are all kinds of reasons to consider Europe as a historical unit, and also reasons to assert its specialness. There are no persons more invested in such assertions of specialness than the white colonists of the Americas and their descendants. To conceive of their home continent as Eurasia — as one of far greater ethnic diversity than that random space called Europe between the Urals and the western sea—might bother them. (It’s one thing to say, “I’m a European-American,” another to say “I’m a Eurasian-American”).

More importantly, the U.S. State Department has always made the Atlantic alliance (NATO), cementing a specifically North American-European bond, central to U.S. policy. It works overtime to discourage closer European ties to the great Eurasian powers including Russia, China, Iran.

The New Eurasia and the New Silk Road:

But meanwhile Moscow, and Putin in particular, has been vigorously promoting the Eurasia concept. In his usage the term has the specific connotation of a continent-wide free market, extending as the Russian leader puts it, “from Vladivostok to Lisbon.” He and the Chinese are talking about multiple, high-speed railways and highway networks linking nations and markets. The China-Europe Block Train that opened last November now runs from Yuwi in Zhejiang to Madrid. That’s an 8,700 railway route through China, Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Poland, Germany, France and Spain.

Beijing is at the same time promoting a $6 billion project for a railway from Shanghai to the Mediterranean, and another to Berlin through Russia. A South Silk Road is envisioned proceeding from Urumqi through Iran and Turkey to the Balkans. The greatest infrastructure projects in world history, linking trade between the Pacific and the the Atlantic are being arranged as we speak.(And by the way, both China and Russia are seriously planning for a tunnel spanning the Bering Strait to allow for direct railway traffic from Asia into North America. China is already developing the technology for an undersea channel from Fujian to Taiwan. Imagine being able to travel by train from Shanghai to San Francisco.)

The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), China’s answer to the World Bank, is playing a major role in financing these projects. Washington has discouraged its allies from joining; Japan which always defers to the U.S. has not. But both the U.K. and Canada infuriated the U.S. last year by joining, and they were followed by Germany, France and Italy. They know there’s lots of money to be made from a more integrated Eurasian continent.

Overlapping the AIIB and the New Silk Road plans is the China-centered free-trade deal called the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), involving all ten ASEAN countries (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam) plus China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. These constitute over 30% of the world market, and India and China continue to grow dramatically. (Having declined from 11% in 201, the Chinese GDP real growth rate has stabilized at 6%, projected through 2021. India will likely have 7% growth for the next few years.)

Far less ambitious than the (now apparently doomed) Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) that excluded China, this RCEP focuses on lowering tariffs and fixing common quality standards. Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo told the Diet recently that “if the TPP doesn’t go forward,” there’s “no doubt that there [will] be a pivot to the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership,” adding matter-of-factly: “RCEP doesn’t include the United States, leaving China the economy [in the partnership] with the largest gross domestic product” … //

… Trump the Builder, and the Glorious History of U.S. Infrastructure: … //

… Trump the builder may have thoughts on all this. Trump the China-basher might have thoughts on this too. It is unlikely Trump has read Herodotus on Europe and Asia, or Nietzsche on the topic of Eurasia, or even Putin’s speeches on Eurasian economic integration. But he must know that Eurasian economic integration is inevitable, and see that the Silk Road is resurfacing as never before, because over time construction techniques advance and the impossible becomes possible.

Did I mention that the Shanghai Maglev Train can reach 500 miles an hour? Or that you can now take the China-Europe Block Train from Zhejiang to Madrid? Or that in a generation you might be able to take a train from San Francisco to Shanghai through a Bering Strait tunnel?

Human capacities advance, surely. We get ever better able to communicate and associate than we could do in the days of the Silk Road caravans. We humans always impress one another with our inventiveness, our creativity. But you never know when a new khan’s going to appear and try to shake everything up. Or break everything.

(full long text).

Books on amazon.co.uk by Gary P. Leupp.

(Gary Leupp is a Professor of History at Tufts University, and author of numerous works on Japanese history. He can be reached at: gleupp@granite.tufts.edu. Read other articles by Gary).


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Warnungen aus allen Richtungen - Islam Expertin Laila Mirzo, 14.45 min, von mega-channel31 am 23. Sept 2016;

A Useful Prep-Sheet on Syria for Media Propagandists, on Counterpunch, by GARY LEUPP, Oct 2, 2015;

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… and this:

  • MUSIC OF THE SIXTIES – The Folk Singers (5), 19.36 min, uploaded by rober b … Tom, Julie, Leonard, Judy, Joan, Gordon, Art & Paul … many more in autoplay.

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