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China’s Silk Road from Original to Digital World

China’s ‘Silk Road has hit the headlines recently regarding its impact on business relationships and industrial growth in the present climate of the commercial world. China Telecom Europe’s products, for example, our VPN services for China, aim to encourage cross-continental connectivity between Europe and China, which is the driving force behind all of CT Europe’s work. The original Silk Road allowed for the exchange of goods between China and other continents in the ancient world and had a huge impact on the industry as well as cultures. In our globalized 21st century world, the new ‘digital’ Silk Road has the potential to create an equally great impact on how we do business in the modern age.

The Original Silk Road

The ancient Silk Road was a physical route, or collection of routes, which connected Asia with Africa, the Middle East, and Southern Europe, both via land and sea. The ethos of this lives on in 21st-century terms, hence the name ‘the digital silk road’. The ancient network, formally established during the Han Dynasty of China, connected the East with the West and derived its name from the fact that silk, a lucrative trade at the time, was transported in mass quantities via these routes to the different continents. Silk was popular in the west during this period, particularly in Rome, but it was certainly not the only product to make the network successful. Paper and gunpowder were also popular goods for trading, however, the majority of business came from China’s exporting of luxury, expensive goods such as teas, salt, sugar, porcelain, and spices. In the other direction of this trade route, China commonly imported materials such as cotton, ivory, wool, silver, and gold. Although the network was established principally for the buying and selling of goods, it also saw the exchange of immaterial entities such as cultural aspects, religious ideas, philosophies, technological advances, languages, scientific knowledge and architectural styles. The name “Silk Road” is a translation of the term “Seidenstrasse” first coined by German traveler and photographer Ferdinand von Richthofen in 1877 AD. The Han Dynasty officially commenced trading with the West in 130 BC, from which point the network was used regularly until 1453 AD when the routes were closed as a result of the Ottoman empire boycotting trade with the western world when the Byzantine Empire fell to the Turks.

The Digital Silk Road

The notion of globalization means that countries, as well as continents, are sharing both skills and products at an unstoppable rate, and as such few goods remain exclusively available in the country where they were originally manufactured. This is particularly evident in large cities, many of which have become remarkably diverse and multicultural. Improved methods of travel have also been established over the course of the past century, which means that there is no longer the need for a physical trade route. Instead, there is a growing requirement for digital connections between continents in order to enhance communication and business relations within the context of our online world. Many large organizations are already operating in multiple locations across the globe, and are therefore reliant on telecommunications, in the first instance to ensure the smooth running of operations between international bases, as well as to allow effective communication with clients and partners situated throughout the world. China Telecom is committed to promoting international business relationships through our offerings such as VPN services to China, which not only enable business relationships but also further the potential of ICT to increase productivity and minimize the need to travel, which serves to reduce emissions. The Digital Silk Road is an innovation-led development, established with the aim of increasing international connectivity and generating a greater volume of business interactions intercontinentally.

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