mandag 7. juni 2021

What Han Dynasty China’s Financial Relations With Rome Can Teach Us Today

Ongoing debate about the future of China-U.S. relations has, perhaps inevitably, reincarnated the ghost of Samuel Huntington’s “clash of civilizations,” the argument that cultural clash between “East” and “West” is inevitable, and that competition between Beijing and Washington is a manifestation of that clash. This persists despite long-standing appreciation of commercial and cultural connections between the “Confucian” world and the “West.”

Indeed, some of our modern tools of analysis can shed light on how developments on one side of Eurasia had an impact on the other side. It has long been understood, for example, that the Han Dynasty in China and the Roman Empire conducted a rigorous trade, albeit usually through Parthian intermediaries. Peter Frankopan’s recent book “The Silk Road“ challenges the idea of a stark division between East and West, pointing out the extensive commercial, social, and cultural connections between Asia and Europe even during the ancient period. Archaeological and primary source analysis also supports the idea that both Han and Roman authorities regarded the maintenance of commercial connections as a high policy priority.