Currently, about 9 out of 10 of trade containers travel by sea to their destination. While trade has been slowing down in the last few years, we can realistically say that there will be a huge flow of manufactured goods from East Asia to Europe and North America for quite some time.
To reach European countries, East Asian shipping companies have been forced to rely on water routes that move through the Red Sea and then traverse through the Suez Canal in Egypt. This has been the norm since the 19th century, and the Suez Canal has remained a strategic area ever since.
China has been testing a shorter route that goes through the Bering Strait, into the arctic, and down into Europe, but this would probably require coordination with Russia’s fleet of icebreaking ships. Until that happens, the following routes are superior:
While the traditional Suez Canal route does allow ships to avoid the incredibly long trip around Africa, China wants to pursue alternatives that avoid the waterways near the Middle East for a number of reasons.
One of them is the overwhelming presence of the United States Navy in the Mediterranean, Red, and Arabian Seas. The following map shows just US Navy bases, and does not even include Army, Marine Corp., or Air Force bases.
As you can see, the bases were placed in a manner that allows the US Navy to control both the Suez and the rest of the Mediterranean Sea. And because the United States has – by far – the largest and most advanced Navy in the world, that control would become absolute in times of crisis.
Although us Americans may not realize it, our military aggression is scaring the rest of the world. Since Obama became president, we’ve already managed to bomb SEVEN countries (Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia), most of which are along the Suez Canal route. And for all our efforts, we have not managed to create one decent government in the Middle East. Why wouldn’t countries avoid interaction with the United States these days?
One of the the new agendas being pushed by Chinese president Xi Jinping’s is what I like to call “Silk Road 2.0″ – a Eurasian trade network that avoids the US-controlled oceans.
As you can see, the main trade route includes big US targets like Syria, Iran, and North Korea. This is exactly what the United States does not want to see, because it creates an enormous economic zone with energy independence and trade that is not denominated in US dollars. If you want to talk about a system that could challenge US dollar hegemony, forget about the Euro. A yuan-backed trade network like this would be amazing.
The ancient trade route known as the “Silk Road” existed for a reason: organic market forces dictated it. The only reason it hasn’t been recreated is because of artificial barriers set up by countries, religions, armies, and so on.
Those reasons still exist today. What changed is China, which has grown into the world’s largest economic superpower by GDP. While the “main” trading route may take a while to establish, alternative routes have already begun to materialize.
For instance, let’s look at the Europe-China block train route that was finished in 2014. It is the world’s longest land route, and links eight countries – one of which the United States is very unfriendly with right now.
This is one of the few trade routes in the world that the United States government cannot control in any way (at least up to Poland), and both China and Russia are eager to build more connections. For instance, a new high speed railway is being planned to directly link Beijing and Moscow, reducing the travel time from 7 days to 48 hours.
There’s no fighting it – Asia is consolidating, and in the process they are finding ways to circumvent US interference. The world’s largest navy can’t control the world’s largest landmass if the surrounding waters are not being relied upon.