EU-Asia Relations: A critical Review

27 March 2008 to 28 March 2008

The Contemporary Europe Research Centre

European Institute for Asian Studies

University of Melbourne


Title of Paper:

Restoring the Silk-Road: Perceptions, Perspectives and Policies


For centuries a route some 8000 kilometres-long, known as the Silk Road, connected Europe and China by crossing the Middle East and Central Asia.

Driven largely by inter-regional trade, the Silk Road can be rightly described as the vector of an extraordinary historical civilisational encounter. Restoring the Silk Road is a potent metaphor that has been used in recent years by China’s former President Jiang Zemin, and former EU Commission President Romano Prodi. This is the organising theme for this paper.


The Paper explores the political, cultural and economic implications of such a vision of the future. More specifically, it seeks to develop a non-Eurocentric analysis of the role of Europe in East Asia (Northeast and Southeast Asia) drawing on a readily expanding but still largely embryonic literature on the subject.


The conceptual point of departure is that, to foster a vibrant Euro-Asian cultural and political dialogue, Europe must first develop a clearer understanding of East Asian perceptions and attitudes. Several key questions immediately arise: How is Europe, in its unity and diversity, perceived by East Asia’s governments, societies, media and regional institutions? How is the status of Europe as a global economic power received in East Asia, and how does it influence East Asian perceptions of Europe? What are the historical, social, economic and political factors that affect East Asian perceptions of Europe and their evolution? And, if the aim is to ‘restore the Silk Road’ and enhance in substantial ways the co-operative relationship between the two regions, how might such a project be perceived by key actors in the Euro-Asian continent?