Different factors that inhibited the development of international trade in the period from the era of the Silk Road to the Bretton Woods Conference

Published: 2019-11-11 08:30:00
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Human interactions over long distances have been inevitable for a long period of time. The Overland category of the Silk Roads connecting Europe, Asia and Africa is one of the basic examples of transformative power in the trans-local exchanges existing within the Old World. The religion, philosophy, arts and language are among other cultural aspects that spread and mixed when nations engaged in rigorous exchanges of both products and ideas. In the 5th and 16th centuries, the Europeans discovered important aspects of trade in their prospective exploration of oceans such as the commencement of transatlantic travels into the New World in America. The global movements of commodities, ideas and people also expanded significantly in subsequent centuries. In early 19th century, the establishment of new forms of translocation including steamship and railroads as well as telecommunications compressed both time and space to allow for the rising global interchange rates. Within the 20th century, intermodal transport, road vehicles and airlines also improved transportation. The discovery of electronic communications and the mobile phones and internet in particular resulted into enhanced connectivity of people in different ways in subsequent years. During the period between Silk Roads Era and the Bretton Wood Conference, several challenges hampered the development of the international trade as enumerated in this paper.


Silk Roads economic belt was a proposal based on the initiatives of President Xi Jinping as a platform for opening up all countries seeking to participate in building benefits from the reconstruction of ancient trade routes that connected China, Europe and Central Asia. The economic belt does not require new mechanisms. On the contrary, it is intended to make complete use of the current multilateral cooperation agreements of different economic bloc and countries but further injecting new contents into the economic blocs encompassed. However, the success of this development is short-lived by lack of well-developed infrastructure. Besides, the success of the cooperation could only be successful if all countries benefits from the cooperation.

The ideals perpetrated by the Silk Road was marred with significant challenges including poor transportation infrastructure which was and remains the main aspect considered at the peak of economic planners. Majority of major roads connecting Central Asia and China had been in desperate need for upgraded reconstruction. The reconstruction demands huge financial support from the government as a result of complex geographical condition. Disagreements between the countries involved were rocked in disagreement between member states. Lack of joint construction between member states also hampers development.

Geopolitics of Silk Roads Era

During the Silk Road era running to the Bretton, there were several issues that hampered the development of international trade. In particular, during the 17th century, the cartographers of Paris were faced with numerous challenges involving the need to fill blank sections on their maps. They depended largely on two main principles: principle of lands and the principle of ocean. Given instances that they assumed that the world was an ocean, it could be easy for them to abandon the blue of large encompassing seas dominance that surrounded the continents like Islands. On the other hand, given an instance that they assumed a land, the principle would ensure that all unknown regions of continental extension comprising of uncharted coasts that would one time faced with hapless mariners. These aspects of divided perspective to geographical boundaries were key to development of international trade.

By virtue of the land principle, the navigators touching the Western Australian, New Guinea and the New Zealand coasts would be tempted to take a large Southern Land which was indeed turned out to be smaller representation of Australia. Another example of the land principle application was considering whether the North America and Siberia were conjoined by land bridge or otherwise. The individuals ascribing to the principle of sea on the other hand presumed the existence of navigable passage that separated two lands and permitting possible northeast summer passages between Russia, China and Japan. This presupposition was believed to be true although the icebound trait of Arctic Seas argued that the passage was only partially useable for a limited amount of time annually. These particular issues influenced the migratory pattern that defined international trade between states involved.

Similarly, the Soviet Union for a period of times made huge investments in attempts to establish a naval route and distinct coastlines. At one particular time, the Soviet envisaged Arctic Sea Coast railway that would assist in developing the Northern Siberia. This Aspect proved impossible to undertake while the establishment of icebreakers fleets such as the nuclear powered categories resulted in North-Eastern passages being only partially useable for large volume trade activities. The strategic impact of limited passages was a serious challenge that Russia and Soviet Union were coerced into maintaining separate fleets with limited capacities to combine them for strategic operations. In essence, this hampered mutual trade engagement between the group main trade entities. Indeed, this limitation allowed the USA and allies to seek the formulation of policy that would promote global containment of the Soviet forces in the cold war period.

Between the 19th and 20th centuries, when the seas were presumed to cover more space relative to land space, the sea power became the dominant force while generating large empires. Besides, sea power was also essential in Ancient Greek, Roman and Carthaginian spheres of influence. The Romans could only beat Carthaginians in three main wars by rising to become the most dominant power. Besides, the Sea Power also becomes an important resource which was spread beyond Europe by the European Powers to dominate the world. In essence, it was initially a central element of integrating the Mediterranean economies between the 15th and the 17th centuries which later created the Pacific and Atlantic empires that formed the main source of wealth for Industrialized European economies. This mounts the essential role of the Silk Road era running to the Bretton Wood Conference between which several changes in the international trade occurred.

In both World Wars, there were several decisive battles aimed at establishing new lineups for the controls of the ocean. The Atlantic was a crucial source of confluence while the controls of the Mediterranean and Pacific Ocean were significant areas of considerations in the Second World War in order to monitor and control trade route that Silk Roads seemed unable to permit. With regard to trade, the oceanic trade has been a major point of focus with regard to economic wealth of USA, Japan and Britain. Similarly, in Europe, the costs attributable to the long sea routes were higher than roads or rail. For instance, majority of freights from the Danube basin continues to pass through the Black sea, Atlantic Ocean heading to Northern Europe despite having new canals joining the Rhine River and the Danube basins. The advent of Silk Roads did not create immense changes in the trade commodity routes since the supply of silk was largely bound by the Chinese suppliers and therefore limited the number and connectivity of international trade routes by Silk Roads. Many trade entities opted to use the sea routes for transportation rather than over-crowded road and rail routes.

Power and Wealth Creation

Open access through roads was dependent partly by the stability and policy frameworks of major powers along the trade routes that Silk Roads created. At the inception of Silk Roads, geography and history are major aspects of development. With regard to geography, Eurasia has often been divided into outer and inner zones representing different environments. The outer zone of Eurasia entailed relatively warm and suitable segments for agriculture that provided important settings for great high level civilization in India, China, and the Mediterranean regions. The construction and development of classical civilization as well as imperial states supplemented earlier Eurasia connections. Lack of well-established trade and international relation policies hampered successful engagements between the countries involved in the trade.

Silk Roads trading road networks flourished largely when big and powerful states provided huge security for merchants and travelers. These conditions prevailed in the classical era when the Chinese and Roman empires engaged in long-distance commerce in eastern and western ends of Eurasia. Silk road trades also flourished in the seventh and either centuries when the Byzantine Empire, Tang dynasty and the Muslim Abbasid established virtually progressive belt comprising of strong states throughout Eurasia. Poor relationships between small states and the big counterparts however hampered the advancement of trade connections across the entire regions between Asian and European trading blocs. Between 13th and 14th century, the Mongol Empire entailed virtually the complete route of Silk Roads in one state which inspired new vitality for the long-distance trades. Silk was one of the elements that symbolized Eurasian exchange system.

The development of international trade was however hampered by increased demand for silk in the 6th century. For instance, with advanced knowledge and technology in the production of raw silk past China led to unhealthy competition across the entire space. The Christian monks within China hid silkworms in their bamboo canes an action of industrial espionage that short-lived Silk trade for road production and other luxurious business engagements. Subsequently, this act paved way for silk-producing and weaving industry to start within the Byzantine Empire. Other entities such as the Japanese, Indians and the Koreans also began tp produce the precious silk fabric. High demand for silk in the Silk Road era onwards precipitated new challenges due to cultural transits that come along these advances. Due to advances on the Silk Roads, the government enacted legislations that restricted silk-made clothing to elite members of the society alone. This process had a significant impact on the trade with silk across multiple international players. Besides, silk was largely associated with sacred functions within the context of fast expanding religious world of Christianity and Buddhism.

Another critical factor that hampered international trade during the Silk Road was the inexistence of common language and communication strategies. As a result, Silk Road led to the transfer of cultural values and aspects of communication that facilitated effective communication between different trading partners during the Silk Road era up to the Bretton Wood conference when cultural transfer between trading partners was eminent. Silk Roads accelerated cultural transfers. In particular, Buddhism stretched widely across East and Central Asia as a result of major merchant activities through the Silk Roads. From its inception in India, Buddhism appealed to most merchants that preferred the universal message perpetrated by the culture to the Brahmin-dominated Hinduism.

Increased transportation threat to merchants security was a major challenge to the Silk Roads routes. The Mongolian Empire w...


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