Discussssion The Sogdians and the BRI

timer Asked: Jan 29th, 2021

Question Description

I'm working on a writing discussion question and need an explanation to help me understand better.

Task A: Explore this terrific site on the Sogdians (https://sogdians.si.edu/ (链接到外部网站。)). And then:

1. Read the introduction (https://sogdians.si.edu/introduction/) and explain in 100-150 words who the Sogdians were and why they matter.

2. Then, choose one of the five main sections of the site (The Sogdians at Home, Believers, Proselytizers, & Translators, The Sogdians Abroad, From Nara to Nancy, The (Re)discovery of the Sogdians); pick an artifact that you find fascinating and explain, in 100-150 words, in what ways it fascinates you (where it was found, when it was made, how it was made, what it represents, etc.). You only need to pick one artifact in one of the sections (NOT one artifact for each section). Include the link to your artifact.

To receive full credit for this exercise, don't forget to comment on your friends' posts by the deadline.

Task B: Read the article on the New Silk Road and China's BRI, and answer the following questions:

1. What is the BRI in the context of this article, and why is it said that "the BRI is a Chinese version of Trump's call to 'Make America Great Again'"?

2. The ancient Silk Road was not all about peace and prosperity. What are some of the potential problems and criticisms regarding the New Silk Road (China's BRI)?

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Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society 2019, 12, 3–16 doi:10.1093/cjres/rsy037 Editorial Steven Brakmana, Peter Frankopanb,c, Harry Garretsend and Charles van Marrewijke Department of International Economics, Faculty of Economics and Business, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands, s.brakman@rug.nl b Department of Global History, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK, peter.frankopan@worc. ox.ac.uk c Oxford Centre for Byzantine Research, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK d Department of International Economics & Business, Faculty of Economics and Business, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands, j.h.garretsen@rug.nl e Utrecht University School of Economics, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands, J.G.M.vanMarrewijk@uu.nl a Introduction: the speech and plan1 In September 2013, President Xi Jinping of China delivered a speech at Nazarbayev University in Astana, Kazakhstan.2 He seemed to be in a reflective mood: ‘Shaanxi, my home province, is right at the starting point of the ancient Silk Road’, he said. ‘Today, as I stand here and look back at that episode of history, I could almost hear the camel bells echoing in the mountains and see the wisp of smoke rising from the desert’. He valued Kazakhstan not just as a regional partner but with whom China enjoyed a special relationship. ‘A near neighbour is better than a distant relative’, said Xi. It was important to maintain such friendships, and build on them too. ‘We need to pass on our friendship from generation to generation,’ he noted, and ‘always be good neighbours living in harmony’. To do this, he went on, ‘we need to firmly support and trust each other and be sincere and good friends. To render each other firm support on major issues concerning core interests such as sovereignty, territorial integrity, security and stability is the essence and an important part of China’s strategic partnership with Central Asian countries’. This was essential, the Chinese leader said, in order ‘to combat the ‘three forces’ of terrorism, separatism and extremism as well as drug trafficking and transnational organized crime’. Dealing with these was vital for the creation of ‘a favourable environment for the economic development and the well-being of the people in this region’. Working more closely together, he said, would allow China and its neighbours to ‘expand regional cooperation with a more open mind and broader vision and achieve new glories together’. If they did so, China and the countries of Central Asia could seize ‘a golden opportunity’ to lay the basis for a new golden age. ‘To forge closer economic ties, deepen © The Author(s) 2019. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Cambridge Political Economy Society. All rights reserved. For permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com Downloaded from https://academic.oup.com/cjres/article/12/1/3/5348484 by American University Law Library user on 14 January 2021 The New Silk Roads: an introduction to China’s Belt and Road Initiative Brakman et al. of China’s foreign and economic policy, but it has been followed by large-scale actions and investments that seek—or purport to seek—to re-galvanise relations between Beijing and its neighbours in Asia. Although Xi had not mentioned anything other than over-land routes (see Figure 1), the strategy that rolled out of Beijing from the winter of 2013 onwards always referred to two prongs: rather confusingly to Englishspeaking ears, a ‘road’ over the sea linking regions together, and a ‘belt’ tying countries to one another. Soon referred to as ‘One Belt, One Road’, or by, external observers mainly, as the new Silk Road, the policy has now become formally referred to as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).4 We use Xi’s 2013 speech at some length here, because it clearly sets out from the Chinese (leader’s) perspective what the BRI entails and how it came about. The fact that the BRI is also referred to as the New Silk Road already indicates that the BRI has a precedent which raises the very important question whether the BRI really marks a fundamental and unique policy shift (Frankopan, 2015, 2018). CP CIP NELB = New Eurasia Land Bridge CMR = China Mongolia Russia CWC = China Central Asia West Asia Figure 1. The New Silk Road economic corridors. 4 CP = China Pakistan CIP = China Indochina Peninsula BCIM = Bangladesh China India Myanmar Downloaded from https://academic.oup.com/cjres/article/12/1/3/5348484 by American University Law Library user on 14 January 2021 cooperation and expand development space in the Eurasian region’, Xi went on, ‘we should take an innovative approach and jointly build an “economic belt along the Silk Road”’. Xi set out how this could be done. First, it was necessary ‘to improve road connectivity’, which would create ‘a major transportation route connecting the Pacific and the Baltic Sea’. Investing in ‘cross-border transportation infrastructure’ and ‘a transportation network connecting East Asia, West Asia and South Asia’ would facilitate economic development and travel in the region. Additionally, it was important to ‘promote unimpeded trade’. Removing trade barriers between them, reducing the costs of doing business, increasing the velocity and scale of trade would result in ‘win-win progress in the region’. ‘China and Kazakhstan are friendly neighbours as close as lips and teeth’, he concluded. ‘Let us join hands to carry on our traditional friendship and build a bright future together’.3 Many politicians deliver speeches that set out visions and promise actions. The Xi speech was unusual, however, for the fact that not only did it mark a major re-orientation Introduction to China’s Belt and Road Initiative The interest in the BRI is clearly not confined to ‘China watchers’ in academic or policy circles. The large and growing interest in the BRI is clearly also motivated by the fact that the economic and political power of China is on the ascent and many people think that the 21st century will be a ‘Chinese century’.6 To illustrate this and also to justify the decision to spend the current issue of this journal wholly on the BRI, Figure 2 visualises how since 1 AD the world’s economic centre of gravity has shifted across the globe. The economic centre of gravity moved away from China (and Asia as a whole) from the 17th century onwards.7 It is also clear China 2000 2010 2018 2025 1800 1950 1960 1980 1900 1850 1600 1 AD Figure 2. The World’s economic centre of gravity. Source: Based on The Economist (2018a); the economic centre of the globe is calculated using an average of a countries’ locations weighted by their GDP. 5 Downloaded from https://academic.oup.com/cjres/article/12/1/3/5348484 by American University Law Library user on 14 January 2021 This question is not only relevant to historians. Between the old and new Silk Road, China has been involved in other major transnational infrastructure projects in modern times.5 Understanding the causes and consequences of the BRI might therefore be improved by looking at other transnational infrastructure cases in which China was or continues to be a leading participant. Besides the words of the Chinese leader Xi, one would like to have solid theoretical and empirical research that shows what the possible drivers and results of BRI are or will be. The focus of this current issue is therefore on China’s BRI. Brakman et al. History and basic BRI facts9 What is in a name? From a historian’s point of view, the reference point made by Xi to the past is both revealing and instructive. The reference that Xi was making in his Astana speech, repeated with almost metronomic regularity since then, is that the BRI is a 21st century re-incarnation of the ancient Silk Road that connected the Pacific coast of China to the Mediterranean 2,000 years ago—if not earlier still. The term ‘Silk Road’ is a modern invention, coined by the German geographer Ferdinand von Richthoften, to describe the networks that allowed the transmission of one precious commodity (silk) from Han dynasty China to the Roman Empire. Like all labels, the name of the Silk Road is as clumsy as it is elegant. With its focus on small volume, high-value trade that was enjoyed only by the elite, the term can easily be understood to suggest greater long-distance connectivity than demonstrated by the evidence. It also obscures the fact that much of the exchange across Asia in antiquity—and indeed since then—was more intensive between individual towns and 6 their hinterlands, and between neighbouring towns themselves, than it was across thousands of miles or between imperial rulers and their capitals. Nevertheless, the Silk Road label does have a value in capturing the fact that despite the obvious deficiency and problems that the term raises, it helps explain the fact that goods (of which silk was one of many), ideas, languages, religions and even genes were carried along corridors that really did span the continents of Asia, Europe and Africa. Moreover, it is possible to use the networks to chart the ways that global centres of power, but also of science and literature, of culture and the arts, shifted over time. One way or another, the countries and peoples of the Silk Road have played prominent roles not only in local and regional history, but in broader, global terms too. They underpin study of ‘global history’ in so far as they prompt us to think in terms of broader connections and wider themes of the past.10 In his 2013 Astana speech, Xi stated that the peoples and countries of the Silk Road had seen thousands of years of cooperation, despite ‘differences in race, belief and cultural background’. There was some substance in this statement, although it is worth noting that figures like Attila the Hun, Genghis Khan and his heirs, Timur, Babur and others might be surprised at the suggestion that these worlds were always peaceful and harmonious—while the more recent past, with tumultuous events in Syria, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan in the last 30 years, set alongside the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, Partition in South Asia, and the experiences of the Soviet Union and the peoples of Central Asia, likewise suggest that not everyone saw eye to eye all the time. What Xi meant in Astana in September 2013, however, was something more subtle, for the underlying message of his comments was not just that the Silk Road had once been the Downloaded from https://academic.oup.com/cjres/article/12/1/3/5348484 by American University Law Library user on 14 January 2021 that right from the start of the 21st century the economic centre of gravity has shifted back (and quite rapidly so) towards Asia and hence China (PriceWaterhouseCoopers, 2015). The seven papers in this issue each offer an interesting research perspective on the BRI. Before we turn to these papers, our introduction first provides a brief historical and factual background on BRI in the History and basic BRI facts section. In the Economic and geographical relevance of the BRI section, we will provide some potential economic and geographical relevance and background to the ‘New Silk Roads’. The section The papers in this issue concludes our introduction by briefly linking the BRI to the seven subsequent papers that constitute this issue. Introduction to China’s Belt and Road Initiative China power: past, present and future The 2013 announcement by Xi and the subsequent adoption of a major new foreign and economic policy was partly a sign of China’s rise as a global superpower. But embedded in its heart was also a re-conceptualisation of the past—one, that as it happens, has an obvious resonance with other countries not only in Central Asia but beyond as well. The BRI is a response to a rapidly changing world in the 21st century where the centre of gravity seems to be shifting inexorably to the east—evidenced by the rising share of global GDP of countries in Asia and by China itself, whose economy has grown 10-fold since 2001 (Feigenbaum, 2018). The evocation of history and the harking back to an era of apparent stability, prosperity and co-operation is noteworthy in what it reveals about the desire and even the need to justify the present and future by referencing the past. Having a model to replicate and revert to plays a role in giving a context for major policy developments and in so doing, allows a wider understanding that the policies themselves are not revolutionary but rather reversions to the norm. History provides examples of many parallels to the narrative of justifying the return to a glorious past (regardless of how mythical that past is). As it so happens, in the modern day, the most obvious counterpoint to the recreation of the Silk Road comes from China’s most global rival—the USA. In some ways, the BRI is a Chinese version of Trump’s call to ‘Make America Great Again (MAGA)’.11 One obvious difference between the two comes from the resources that have been poured into the BRI—and the fact that there seems to be a coherent plan behind it that leads back to the Politburo in Beijing. Superficially at least, both seem to be correct. According to much-cited figures, almost $1 trillion has been committed to almost a thousand projects across Asia since Xi delivered his speech in Astana (State Council Information Office, 2015). Many of these are connected to what appear to be China’s strategic interests—namely the construction of ports, pipelines, road and railways that enable Chinese goods to get to new markets more quickly, and conversely, help deliver necessities to China’s markets, above all in the energy sector, where consumption is expected to treble by 2030. On paper at least, the thinking behind the plan seems not only joined-up and preplanned but eminently sensible. While China’s population faces obvious and growing problems as it ages and does not replace itself, its needs and desires are rising in proportion to its rising spending power, greater aspirations and rapid growth rate. As a result, securing energy and food supplies, on the one hand, while helping connect and invigorate new markets for Chinese products, on the other hand, is not hard to understand. In Pakistan and India alone, for example, penetration of household goods such as refrigerators, air conditioning units and laptops, all of which are produced in bulk in China, is extremely low. With a combined population of more than one billion, helping countries in South Asia to develop infrastructure opens new possibilities for Chinese companies to expand and maintain, or even quicken, the rate of growth that has transformed the country over the last three decades (Frankopan, 2018). Moreover, while China has historically played a limited role in looking beyond its own borders 7 Downloaded from https://academic.oup.com/cjres/article/12/1/3/5348484 by American University Law Library user on 14 January 2021 world’s central nervous system, but that he was harking back to a time when it was the countries of Asia that ruled the world in terms of their power and capabilities, their technological and scientific advances and their economic and cultural dominance. The era he was evoking was one where the world’s largest cities were Kaifeng (in eastern China) and Merv (in what is now Turkmenistan) and when leading scholars worked in Bukhara, Samarkand, Isfahan and Xi’an (Hansen, 2012, Xinru, 2010). Brakman et al. What is the BRI? There are, however, significant challenges when it comes to evaluating the BRI in detail. For one thing, understanding what falls within the umbrella of the term itself is not always clear. There are now new Silk Roads for the Arctic and even for space exploration (Hillman, 2018). In one sense, it could be argued that this is unproblematic: the original conceptualisation of the Silk Road involved attempting to provide a loose framework that could capture the exchange of multiple goods and products; expanding this to include networks that do not conform to a specific or pre-determined geographic footprint allows considerable flexibility that can be helpful when looking at the past—when the significance of different commodities rose and fell, and when the identities (and physical locations) of buyers, sellers and intermediaries changed over time. On the other hand, of course, the problems of defining what the BRI is, and what is, can and should be included in it, is largely not just subjective but highly ambiguous. Some projects started well before President Xi’s Astana speech have ‘become’ BRI flagship investments after the event. Other BRI projects 8 are ones that are termed such, even though they look and are to all intents and purposes straightforward financing and investment decisions that can stand entirely independent of the BRI masterplan. Then there is the fact that while geography might not need to determine how we understand the places and regions that are part of the BRI, the inclusion of countries like Nigeria in West Africa, Bolivia in South America and states in Central America and the Caribbean like Panama and Antigua and Barbuda surprise even those with the widest possible understanding of what the Silk Road of the past were. If ascertaining the precise outlines of what the BRI actually is can be tricky, then so too is getting a true sense of the co-ordination behind the various plans that are on the drawing board or being implemented. While there may be joined up thinking and grand strategy behind some elements, it is sometimes both easy and tempting to assume that there is a coherent, deliberate and functional blueprint that explains each new element or every new development. Beijing likes to talk of the inclusivity of the BRI, describing it as something that ‘originates from China, but belongs to the world’. According to government statements issued in the state-controlled press, it is ‘the world’s biggest international cooperation platform and the most popular international public product’. Its idealistic universalism meant that it helped inspire ‘the dreams of millions of people’, and to bring hope to ‘every country and their citizens’. Some have reacted sharply to such positive, jaunty messages. ‘In a globalised world’, said US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis in October 2017, ‘there are many belts and many roads, and no one nation should put itself in a position of dictating ‘one belt, one road’.12 A few months later, he returned to this theme, adding that not only are there ‘many belts and roads’ in the world, but that China’s efforts to suggest Downloaded from https://academic.oup.com/cjres/article/12/1/3/5348484 by American University Law Library user on 14 January 2021 and in taking part in international development projects (either of its own or multi-laterally), it has gained considerable experience in recent decades with building infrastructure during a period not only of rapid economic growth, but also of urbanisation that has been the fastest in human history (see Brakman et al., 2016). These have not just provided technical know-how of how and what to build, but also the ability to benchmark the impact of investments to measure the uplift they provide in productivity. In this sense, the BRI might be seen as an expansion of China’s own economic transformation of the last 30 years and as much an export of a development model, albeit debtdriven, as it is for large-scale investment in other countries. Introduction to China’s Belt and Road Initiative Potential problems The scale of the help that China is able to give is significant. According to the Asian Development Bank, countries across Asia alone require around $1.7 trillion per year in ...
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