The New Silk Road: Amazon's Control of Global Trade

By Devin Wolf

New York City, New York

No longer is global trade controlled by a dynasty (Photo Credit: Transport Topics)

The advent of globalized trade arose from the Han Dynasty's monopoly on silk production and subsequent domain over the trade routes that connected them to the Romans, Parthians, Kushans, and Mauryans through the 1st-5th Centuries. This connection between Eastern and Western civilizations was a revolutionary prospect for the world of commerce. The success of this network restructured the social fabric of the globe by introducing Buddhism to China, spreading Islam out of the Arabian Peninsula, and bringing gunpowder to the Middle East. The primary reason for the Silk Road flourishing at the dawn of globalized trade was its well-protected infrastructure established by Emperor Wu. Although the Silk Road was eventually made obsolete by European advancements in maritime technology, it served as the first example of a global market.


Today, the natural progression of technology has streamlined international commerce far beyond its humble beginnings in the sand. No longer is global trade controlled by a dynasty, but in our digital era, an app now reigns omnipotent: Amazon’s service as a modern-day Han Dynasty has enabled the company to redefine industry domination. However, concerns regarding how far the power of an industry leader (which also facilitates third-party sellers) extends have increased recently, as Amazon strolled past a trillion-dollar evaluation.


If Amazon’s historical predecessor was able to dominate their entire network of trade, as well as maintain global favor during a digitally primitive time, why does Amazon struggle in the modern court of public opinion? Ergo, if it had been possible for the Han to achieve both commercial dominance and global admiration, couldn’t the lessons of the past offer some insight into how Amazon could potentially mend this flaw in their public opinion? After all, the development of our current digital systems of commerce had been set in motion by the Silk Road, or history’s first example of a ‘world wide web’.


The primary lesson on social responsibility that history could teach Amazon would revolve around the Dynasty’s priority of exploration over conquest. In 138, the Commander of the Imperial Palace, Chang Ch’en, set out on a journey westward with the goal of exploring the existing routes over acquiring new ones. The explorations of Chang Ch’en enabled the Han to reach the tribes of the Yueh-chi as well as the famous horses of Kokand, expanding the global trade network simultaneously with the Dynasty’s influence. The Han decided to use the authority they had garnered by monopolizing the global trade network to further develop the interconnectedness of their new international community. This historical precedent provides Amazon with a blueprint on how to approach further integrating their company in our globalized network of trade and communication. It is important for Amazon to maintain a standard of economic exploration because it will result in similar advancements in global interconnectedness, instead of serving to establish Amazon as an all-powerful economic conqueror.


The concept of economic exploration won the Han Dynasty’s global favor despite their domain over the Silk Road, enabling their time to be remembered as a Chinese Golden Age. If Amazon can follow their example, they will be able to turn public disapproval into a seamlessly integrated system of technological innovation and trade, propelling our civilization into the new golden age of e-commerce.