Streamlined Silk: On Offshoring And Material Interference Along The New Silk Road



The New Silk Road exists in many forms, its layers slowly updated through software and hard concrete. In 2012, Hewlett-Packard negotiated the construction of an alternate rail route “defined not only according to business logic, but also with certain strategic calculation.” (“Battle of the Silk Road: Kazakhstan reformats the map of Eurasia Logistics,” 2017). Faster than slow-ocean, cheaper than airfreight, this rail route from Chongqing cuts through the Xinjiang Province into Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, and Poland, before reaching its destination in Germany, 11,179 kilometers later. Translated as “the flowing of goods,” “物流” (wuliu) expresses the naturalized desire of unhinged flow. Here, streamlined circulation is permitted through the displacement of sovereign borders, installing a new framework of transnational regulation, labor management, and security measures along with standardized units across various platforms. But as the rail-route speeds through the growing deserts in its regions, the arid, shifting lands attest to ongoing exploitation and resistance.