Month: April 2015


I asked a Sinologist:

Do you have any insights into “21世纪海上丝绸之路” – the Chinese Maritime Silk Route. Does 21世纪海上丝绸之路 contain any nationalistic appeal in Mandarin for example, or is it a pretty straight forward description of a strategy ?

The gentleman gave an intriguing reply:

Indeed there is much more than meets the eye …and as with most things related to China, things get sort of complicated and related to ancient history.

Just translating 21世纪海上丝绸之路 into literal English: “21st century on-the-sea silk’s road”, or using the common denomination: “maritime silk road” (MSR), doesn’t help much either.

Ironically, ‘silk road’ (丝绸之路) is a German invention, made at the beginning of the 20th century by explorer Von Richthofen; the Chinese at the time scoffed at the name, ironically nowadays they seem to have fully embraced it as “their own”.


Von Richthofen’s “silk road” was also denoting ONLY the overland trade routes linking China Central Asia and Byzantium (aka East Rome). When Byzantium stole the secret of technology of silk production from the Chinese, sometime in the 5th century AD, the international trade in silks actually waned in favor of all kinds of other commodities. Ergo after the 5th century AD there was trade, but silk was basically out. Read more