Much of the news surrounding the Belt and Road Initiative tends to be reported and discussed in abstract, ambiguous, and sweeping terms, and is often accompanied by vertiginous conjecture about grand narratives and global dominance. One could argue this is simply evidence of a twentieth-century mode of politics being confronted with the twenty-first century, or blame it on the fact that all governments (but especially the Chinese one, or so we believe) are predicated on secrecy. Yet it might have something more to do with the initiative itself. Infrastructures are spatio-temporal constructs. They not only alter the logics of relation to resources, cultures, and geographies, but also to the past, present, and future. On the one hand, infrastructures guarantee the possibility of something—water coming from the tap, a train running on time—but on the other, their effects are inherently uncertain.

Infrastructure looks towards the future. But it is built in the present, and on top of the past. Debate around the Belt and Road Initiative that focuses entirely on what is to come, or what comes after, belies the basic fact that the initiative has already and continues to transform the realities of people and places all around the world, be it by actual development or mere speculation. There is great urgency in attuning discourse to these landscapes, these lives, these cultures, not least because of the potential impacts—economic, political, social, environmental—of such projects. More than money, materials, and labor, the Belt and Road Initiative trades in the currencies of hope and fear.

New Silk Roads is a collaboration between Aformal Academy and e-flux Architecture. The project has been supported by Design Trust, and has been produced in cooperation with Digital Earth.

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10 essays
This visual essay was assembled out of partly spontaneous and short, and other carefully planned and longer trips through Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. T…
On October 15, 2015, a clash broke out between the residents of Okunraiye, a town in Ibeju Lekki, an area east of Lagos, and the workers of Dangote In…
Tekla Aslanishvili and Orit Halpern
rec·la·ma·tion noun 1. the process of claiming something back or of reasserting a right. 1.1 the cultivation of waste land or land formerly un…
Maia Adele Simon
On September 08, 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping gave a speech at Kazakhstan’s Nazarbayev University to launch the Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB)…
Danika Cooper
The “strategic invisibility” of desert spaces accommodate the pursuit of activities out of public view and beyond the realm of judicial and civic …
Belt and Road is a project in both writing and reading history. To date, international scrutiny has fallen overwhelmingly on the former; how China’s…
Asia Bazdyrieva and Solveig Suess
The 3rd Digital Belt and Road conference was held in Tengchong, southern China, in early December, 2018. Initiated by the Chinese Academy of Science, …
Nishat Awan and Zahra Hussain
There is a mud volcano on the periphery of Gwadar, a coastal town in Pakistan’s Balochistan province, locally known as “sumunder ki naaf,” or th…
Timothy Mitchell
The standard way of writing about infrastructure is to start from the question of space and treat time as a consequence. Infrastructures create channe…
Aformal Academy and e-flux Architecture
New Silk Roads is a collaboration between Aformal Academy and e-flux Architecture. The project has been supported by Design Trust and produced in coop…
Globalization, Economy
China, Caucasus & Central Asia, Infrastructure, Extractivism, State & Government

New Silk Roads is a collaboration between Aformal Academy and e-flux Architecture. The project has been supported by Design Trust, and has been produced in cooperation with Digital Earth.


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