“The Greatest Alchemist.”
That was how Marco Polo described First Emperor Kublai Khan in his Travels of Marco Polo during his 13th Century visit to Yuan, China. Paper money, which did not exist in Europe at the time, was already being used in China.
A simple piece of paper could be traded for goods of all types. It seemed Marco Polo thought it to be a most mysterious thing. He likened the emperor, who collected gold and silver treasures through the use of paper money, to an alchemist creating gold artificially.
On May 15, China’s first international summit to promote the New Silk Road Project, “One Belt, One Road,” ended. The “Belt” spanning from China to Europe via central Asia, is a “Silk Road Economic Belt,” while the “Road” is a “21st Century Silk Shipping Route” from the South China Sea, across the Indian Ocean to Europe.
Traveling overland to China and returning to Italy by sea, the route almost perfectly aligns with that of Marco Polo. Advocating the “New Silk Road,” Chinese President Xi Jinping plans to provide 14 trillion yen in assistance and loans to countries along the route. To the leaders of countries desperate to invest in infrastructure, Mr. Xi might seem like “The Greatest Alchemist.”
However, North Korea’s missile launch on the very first day of the summit has poured cold water all over what was to be the most important event for China this year. Could it be that they are trying to increase political leverage through economic support for countries neighboring the route? There are many countries who would think so. At the very least, even from an amateur’s point of view, it seems very unlikely that one could easily collect on the huge loans offered. Japan is correct in continuing to cooperate with caution.
Marco called Kublai Khan the “Greatest Monarch in History.” However, that luster has faded. Due to economic failure and continual unrest, the once glorious yuan have disappeared from the stage of history.
(Click here to read the original article in Japanese)