• The key elements of globalisation date from the decades following the discovery in 1565 by Andrés de Urdaneta of the “return route” east across the Pacific and the development of the “Manila Galleon” trade route. These included:
    • Bi-directional trade routes of global scope
    • Integration of world financial markets through the medium of silver
    • First global currency in the Spanish milled dollar (from the 1730s)
    • Corresponding human and cultural exchanges resulting in a “world city” in Mexico
  • Since globalisation predates the key elements of the Anglo-American narrative, viz liberal economics and politics, post-War international institutions, etc., globalisation can neither derive from nor be concomitant with them.
    • The pivotal role of Spanish America and China in these previous 250 years of global integration has been obscured and superseded by the prevailing narrative of Anglo-American predominance in everything from the economy to technology to military power.
    • China is an increasingly square peg in this round narrative hole. It is more easily accommodated by moving the start of the narrative back by two centuries to a period before New York and London were financial capitals.
    • Several key characteristics of China were evident then: manufacturing prowess, an unwillingness to engage with the world except on its own terms, etc.
    • This period was further characterised by both the lack of an institutional framework for globalization as well as the lack of a leading national player, resulting in an instability that resembles the one we may be entering. Trade, and globalisation, nevertheless proceeded.
  • The Pacific trade route resembles and in many ways is the successor to the “Silk Road” of earlier centuries, and so we have called it “La ruta de la plata”, hence “Silver Way”. Both provide a paradigm for ordering China-centric trade and political relationships without functional or rhetorical reference to the elements of the “Washington consensus” and, in particular, the “ruta de la plata” offers a trans-Pacific organizing principle for an expansion of “One Belt One Road” to the Americas.

Contemporary relevance:

  • The early period of globalisation displays similar dynamics to the period we may be entering.
  • The United States and Britain’s retreat from previously uncontested global leadership positions (Brexit, the cancellation of TPP, the metaphorical or physical “walling off” of Latin America), coincides with active outreach from China, seen most recently in the APEC summit in Lima. This in turns offers the Spanish-speaking bloc a unique opportunity to regain some of the global position it held in the early-modern period.