Why America No Longer Gets Asia
(original source The Washington Quarterly)
In the fall of 2006, as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Central Asia, I wandered through a bazaar in Kara-suu on the Kyrgyz—Uzbek border. The bazaar is one of Central Asia’s largest and a crossroads for traders from across the volatile Ferghana Valley—Kyrgyz, Uzbeks, Tajiks, and many others. But most remarkably, it has become home to nearly a thousand Chinese traders from Fujian, a coastal province some 3,000 miles away, lapped by the waters of the Taiwan Strait.
For a thousand years, this was pretty much the natural order of things. Asia was deeply interconnected. Goods, capital, technologies, ideas, and religions, including Buddhism and Islam, moved across Silk Road caravan routes and over well-trafficked Asian sea lanes. But between the 17th and 19th centuries, Asia fragmented. Maritime trade swamped continental trade. ‘‘The caravel killed the caravan’’ as it became less expensive to ship goods by sea. China weakened. Tsarist armies arrived in Central Asia. And many of India’s traditional roles in Asia were subsumed within the British Empire.
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