Whether it’s China’s ‘One Belt, One Road‘ series of economically driven initiatives, books* rewriting the history of this exotic-to-the-Westerner region or UNESCO’s growing repository of Silk Road resources, it seems the world can’t get enough of the (new) Silk Road(s) at the moment.
Central Asia is right at the heart of both the ancient trading routes that eventually took on the Silk Road name and intertwined with more recent developments. For example, Professor Timur Dadabaev of Tsukuba University in Japan has written about the use of ‘Silk Road’ as a foreign policy discourse used not only by China but Japan and Korea in their contemporary approaches to Central Asia. Central Asian Analytical Network has some nifty infographics on Central Asia’s place in the new Silk Road [ru]. Guo Huadong has written in the high profile publication Nature on how the Digital Belt and Road Project could support the environment as well as promote economic development.
Examples of this Silk Road mania abound, and higher education has been no exception. Currently getting into the Silk Road spirit in Uzbekistan is the recently established International University of Tourism. Handily, the university has already cottoned (silked??) on to the trend, with its full name being the Silk Road International University of Tourism.
Pro-Rector [Vice-President/Pro-Vice-Chancellor] Bahodir Turaev has announced that the university intends to form a Silk Road network university [ru], bringing together universities from around the former Soviet Union to create student exchanges and support the integration of young people. Turaev deliberately places the emphasis on student mobility given that young people make up the majority of the population in these countries and they are the most progressive and active.
This new network will join the Universities Alliance of the New Silk Road, founded by China in 2015 as the latest in what is becoming a very long and meandering (silk) road.
Today’s post picks up on a recent report by Yojana Sharma in University World News on a new alliance set up in China to bring together universities along the Silk Road, that ancient trading route linking China to Europe. In fact, the exact geography of ‘Silk Road’ is very broadly interpreted for this new grouping, bringing together as it does universities as far from the original Silk Road as Finland and Australia. That’s probably why it’s called the alliance of the New Silk Road!
The alliance is likely to be of strong interest to universities in Central Asia, and indeed the proposal to create a New Silk Road Economic Belt, which this universities alliance is connected to, was first publicly made by China’s President in Kazakhstan in 2013.
The title for the post is taken from the official invitation to attend the launch of the alliance at Xi’an Jiantong University in Shanghai this May. The invite says:
The New Silk Road is laden with hopes and dreams. It is a win-win road with friendship and prosperity. We extend a warm invitation to Xi’an at the eastern terminus of the Silk Road, to endorse UANSR [Universities Alliance of the New Silk Raod] and most importantly promote the higher education, and make a difference in the traditions and innovations in the civilization.
Lofty ambitions, and it strikes me that this is a model for partnership that is worth monitoring closely to fully understand the impact it will have on Central Asian universities and even regional politics.