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Date: March 9, 2018

The Silk Trade Route

There is something incredibly romantic about the Silk Trade Route – you know, the one that Marco Polo “discovered” and that brought silk and pasta to Italy from China. In this day and age, it is hard to peer back through the fog of time and realize the incredible marvels that suddenly appeared in the hands of the early explorers. Yes, now we know the Egyptians had trading outposts on the western shores of India, the Greeks had trading posts on the west coast of Africa in Benin (and taught them how to smelt bronze). And Anna Roosevelt, great-granddaughter of Teddy, is probing the mouth of the Amazon and finding Phoenician, Roman, Greek and Egyptian remains.

The point here is not that mankind always travels, explores, finds new marvels but that once he or she does so, the next step is trade. Egyptians traded for Indian Spice. Chinese explorers landed near La Jolla and traded with American coastal inhabitants. Greeks traded with the inhabitants of Benin. In South Africa there’s a ruin called Mapubungubwe Hill with growing evidence that the Queen of Sheba came from there and that Solomon and later the Romans traded with those local people (there’s a beautiful rhino artifact from there – look it up). Trading is a human endeavor that binds us together, strengthens tribal and international bonds. And, in perhaps the greatest history lesson, trading is often used as leverage for power, influence, and domination.

When the USA revolutionized the trading routes in the sky, we set the pathways, designed aircraft uniquely capable of flying those routes, thereby securing dominance globally. All the global air traffic control routes in use today were either conceived by us or forced to adhere to our criteria for distance, alternate landing ports, and emergencies. When Airbus was formed, it was no accident that they adopted all our plane designs and technical parameters. Okay, we now share those trading routes (for that is what moving people and goods are, trading routes), but we still control the vast majority of them. Then we took hold of a DARPA computer link-up (called the web) and set the criteria for that too. All computers made globally tread that technology route we’ve mapped out. Following on the first undersea telephone wiring (the telephone – another treading route), we built and are building fiber optic routes across the country, the oceans and, yes, the world. The USA, in the guise of Google and Microsoft, is setting itself up as the main arbiter of these new trade routes, the gatekeeper, the power that sets the rules. Trading superiority and advantage it is called, just as the Chinese did with Marco Polo when they made the next explorers from Europe pay a toll to use their Silk Route for trade.

Ah, but other people are catching on. Remember the article a few weeks back about the Chinese building highways across the globe? Many have asked me why the Chinese should build highways in countries where they currently don’t do much business, like Argentina and Thailand. Think about this… if I offer your country a road, pay your workers, buy your concrete and steel for bridges… would you not take care of eminent domain (what Europe calls compulsory purchase) agreements to clear the path for that road? And if I were the Chinese, would I not put my new trading routes – massive communications cables – along that route? When you study a map of their new highways they seem to go that extra mile to get to cities that have very little road and truck needs but that are, nonetheless, active centers for computer industries. Simply put, the Chinese are building trade routes, just as Google and Microsoft are doing – trade routes for the future, for the power, for control.