(Xinhua) Over 2,000 years after the majestic ancient Silk Road linked the East and the West, the Eurasian network of trade routes is being overshadowed by conflicts and competition fueled by hunger for natural resources and geopolitical interests.
Today, there are different versions of new Silk Road initiatives in the central Asian passageway, such as the American "New Silk Road," Japan's "Silk Road Diplomacy" and China's "Silk Road Economic Belt."
While some of them are based on belief in enduring peace and common prosperity for all countries, others seek domination by preaching confrontation and excluding other contenders.
The most relevant case is the U.S. Silk Road revival project. Though it eyes an economically vibrant and inter-connected central Asia, the project is heavily ideologically loaded, excluding its political rivals such as Iran, and forcing others to take sides.
The U.S. initiative can be characterized in a bracket with the superpower's military intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq that has only ended with chaos and dented political trust.
Those who are trying to rejuvenate the Silk Road should be aware of what kept it thriving historically: peace, mutual benefit, inclusiveness and openness. Any road that betrays the Silk Road spirit will not last long.
Unlike the great sea routes to the New World discovered by the European navigators that prompted bloody conquest and colonization, the Silk Road was always a road of peace. It was only in the 14th century that escalating ethnic clashes, along with the launch of sea routes in south China, gradually forced the road into decay.
The long-lasting peace was deeply rooted in booming trade along the route.
The 4,000-mile road, which threaded the great civilizations of China, India, Babylon, Arabia, Greece and Rome, was packed with caravans transporting Chinese silk, Indian spices and Persian brocade.
Frequent trading along the road bound countries economically, and stability came out of shared interests. When the trading was at its peak, conflicts were rare in the region.
That is why when China proposed the building of the Silk Road Economic Belt last year, it called for strengthening of trade ties in the region, which lags behind economically.
Statistics have shown China's sincerity in expanding trade with countries in central and west Asia. In 2013, China's imports from Arab countries amounted to 140 billion U.S. dollars. Its trading volume with the five central Asian countries has been over 100 times as much as the figures in 1992, when they established their diplomatic relations.
Sustainable trading, based on mutual benefits and open to all, is expected to lead to constant exchanges of skills and religions, and yield better mutual understanding and tolerance, as did the ancient Silk Road.
It was there that Chinese inventions such as the papermaking and the compass were spread to Europe and that Buddhism and Christianity were introduced to China.
Nourished by different civilizations, the road remained culturally and religiously inclusive. Exquisite Buddhist sculptures and cave paintings in Dunhuang, a major stop on the road, are a testament to the blending of oriental and Western art.
For the time being, the Eurasian heartland faces traditional and non-traditional challenges and threats including cross-border organized crimes, religious conflicts and terrorism. Only by abandoning ideological prejudice can countries join hands to address these challenges.
No nation is powerful enough to dominate the vast region that once thrived thanks to its openness and inclusiveness. A zero-sum mentality seeking confrontation and exclusiveness on the Silk Road will benefit nobody.
Silk Road economic belt
While delivering a speech at Nazarbayev University in Astana, Kazakhstan, President Xi Jinping proposed that China and Central Asia join hands to build a Silk Road economic belt to boost cooperation.
He said, "To forge closer economic ties, deepen cooperation and expand development in the Euro-Asia region, we should take an innovative approach and jointly build an ’economic belt’ along the silk road. This will be a great undertaking benefitting the people of all countries along the route."
21st century maritime Silk Road
A 21st century maritime Silk Road was proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping during his visit to Indonesia last October. Since ancient times, the sea route from ports in Fujian to overseas markets has witnessed China's silk, ceramics and tea traded to the world.
The Ancient Silk Road
The Silk Road is a series of trade and cultural transmission routes that links the East with the West. It began during the Han Dynasty more than 2,200 years ago. The road stretches over 10,000 kilometers across more than a dozen countries.
The initiative includes five provinces and regions in China, and 22 heritage sites on the route are included. Kazakhstan has eight heritage sites and Kyrgyzstan has three.
With the development of sea trade the Silk Road gradually dwindled during the 1500s, but recognition as a world heritage site would help people better preserve its relics, and understand its past.