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Domenico Celli

Connectivity: The Future of Power

Today’s world and the future of civilized humanity as a whole is routinely and popularly

met with much cynicism. To many, the world is confusing and at a glance, civilization is falling

apart. However, I believe that the world is undergoing a transformation that will create a better

quality of life for the billions that inhabit the Earth, though it will shatter the traditional

boundaries, barriers, institutions and constructs that were onced used to maintain order and make

sense of the world. Moving forward, technology has and will continue to make irrelevant the

geographic and political barriers which once divided people and civilizations. Regional

development banks, multinational businesses, and regular people around the world have already

set in motion a process of rapid connectivity from city to city, rural town to town and city to rural

areas. Soon, communities, nations and regions will be so seamlessly connected and integrated,

that geographic barriers and political boundaries will become unimportant. The image of a world

in chaos, disorder and fragmentation, while a tempting view on the surface, couldn't be farther

from the truth; more than ever, the world is coming together and inter-city, inter-regional and

international connectivity is moving towards seamlessly uniting regions of the world.

In Asia, China and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank announced in 2014 and are

currently pursuing the massive “New Silk Road” project, aiming to connect China and central

Eurasia to Europe, through its “one road, one belt” plan (The Conversation, 1). China’s routes

connect through five former soviet states and landlocked regions, overcoming geographic

obstacles such as the mountains of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Results like this all contribute to

one thing: access. In many places that will be connected through this new Silk Road, countries,
communities and people will have unprecedented access to bigger markets and consequently,

better access to resources that will lift the sustained economic equilibrium of these areas. New

highways, high speed rail, high speed internet, and access to seaports will also empower

struggling governments with the formation of new trade partnerships.

Projects like this that not only connect economies, but people, cultures, ideas, institutions

and governments have transcended the former constructs that civilization has operated under.

More than ever, the previously mentioned features have unified. Political, social and economic

relation are more than ever, one. Analyst at the National Bureau for Asian Research, Nadège

Rolland confirms this in his statement, “It is not an economic project, it is a geopolitical project”

(World Economic Forum, 1).

Infrastructure projects like the ones being undertaken in Eurasia as well as in the rest of

the world could be the start of a new era for the world. As nations, regions, and business work

together to connect the world and integrate underperforming areas to productive ones, all of this

connectivity means increased access for the common person. Aside from the New Silk Road,

China continues to display its understanding of this vision by employing other strategies with the

same thinking in mind. China has announced plans to ​establish a new economic zone in Hebei,

well known to be a heavily polluted and economically underperforming area (Strait Times,1).

The Chinese government says the special zone is aimed at facilitating and promoting integration

between Hebei’s neighboring cities, Beijing and Tianjin (Strait Times, 1). The Chinese

government has good reason to believe this initiative will produce the desired result; the

Shenzhen Special Economic Zone of the 1980’s was a major reform that helped fuel China’s

economic rise.The Chinese Cabinet’s plans for Hebei are all aimed towards creating better
economic structure in the region, environmentally sustainable practices and improved public

services (Strait Times, 1). As rapid expansion of China’s economy begins to slow and industrial

centers suffer the environmental effects of pollution, looking into regional projects, connecting

underdeveloped areas to larger cities. China hopes the new Xiongan Area will alleviate public

service issues in overcrowded urban areas and stimulate new growth in underdeveloped areas.

This new initiative, if successful will serve as a new model of development to serve the country’s

existing densely populated urban areas and restructure the urban planning to incorporate low

growth regions into systems interconnected to larger cities (Strait Times, 1).While the project

will expand the Xiongan region to an area approximately 2,000 sq km, the more important

expansion is that of the regions influence and economic importance (Strait Times, 2). In contrast

to China’s past history of rigorous and rapid expansion at the expense of public health and

environmental well being, this project aims to produce inclusive growth that will provide a high

standard of public services and will prioritize environmental concerns (Strait Times, 2). Xiongan

is already well positioned for this type of growth due to its valuable natural resources such as

Baiyangdian, one of the largest freshwater wetlands in north China. As plans advance in the

Chinese government, Xiongan’s future seems promising.

Geopolitical analyst, Parag Khanna is at the forefront of this kind of thinking and advises

governments with the same thinking that led to his book, “Connectography”. Khanna expresses

the whole idea in his statement, “Thanks to global transportation, communications, and energy

infrastructure—highways, railways, airports, pipelines, electricity grids, Internet cables, and

more—the future has a new maxim: “Connectivity is destiny “(CityLab, 3). He goes on to speak

about how this increased connectivity, disregarding global, regional, national and city lines will
reduce inequality, thus empowering individuals to participate in the globalized world. Khanna

asserts that in the future shaped by hub to hub integration and connectivity, “second tier” cities

and producers won't be plunged into further economic isolation. Instead, he argues “ second-tier

cities shouldn't get hollowed out and neglected.They should get more connected to the big cities.

They become back offices, back-end, supply-chain providers, lower-cost manufacturing

centers—they become part of that urban area” (Citylab, 3). He points to places like illinois and

Connecticut as examples of how a lack of unifying infrastructure creates senseless inequality;

“It's such a shame that cities that are actually relatively close to Chicago are so impoverished; or

the state of Connecticut has some of the richest towns in America, but also some of the poorest

towns, even though they're so close. The difference is the degree of connectivity of those cities.

How easily can their residents telecommute digitally or physically commute to jobs on

high-speed rail? That is the difference”(Citylab, 3).

While apprehension and stalled enthusiasm from the United States and aligned countries

is to be expected, Middle Eastern and Eurasian countries have responded enthusiastically and

seem to be eager for the opportunities this enhanced international connectivity will bring.

Already, Iran and Afghanistan have completed railways connecting themselves to China (The

Conversation, 2). Additionally, plans for pipelines and electricity grids that span through

multiple Eurasian countries are underway.

Still, despite political rhetoric in the U.S. that would seem to signal a converging

direction from this hyperconnected model of growth which disregards traditional borders,

America is also headed on a similar trajectory. Although many figures and mainstream media

depict a world in disarray, the U.S. and North American continent seem to be strengthening its
ties and creating more seamless interactions in business, government and everyday life. Parag

khanna observes, “major world regions are forging dense infrastructural connectivity and

reorienting their relations around supply chains rather than borders” (Huffington Post, 1).

Predicting the future of North America, he describes the evolution as a “unified mega-continent

of shared resources and prosperity, with Canada a strategic player in the opening Arctic and

Mexico one of the world’s fastest growing economies” (Huffington Post, 2). He sees a world

where the lines we’re accustomed to on the map are no longer the most important ones, instead,

the world is understood through “a dense network of highways, railways, pipelines and

electricity grids tying this [North American] Union together (Huffington Post).

It seems that despite nationalist surges taking place around the world, greater

connectivity and integration is still the general direction everyone is headed. It is likely that this

inevitable reality is moving forward so strongly due to its potential to accelerate economic

growth while reducing inequality and promoting peace and stability (Fast Company, 1). As

underdeveloped areas are connected to more productive regions, the general population is lifted

and enabled to participate in a regional and global community, unhindered by traditional

boundaries.

While much of many regions of the world face instability and international governance

bodies like the European Union encounter backlash and uncertainty, the world seems to continue

head in a general direction. That direction is connectivity and integration through transnational

infrastructure, technology, and policy that all work towards reducing the friction between

national borders and facilitating the transfer of information, goods, services and people. For

centuries, geography determined destiny and state lines were at the center of international
relations. Today, it seems, the degree of connectivity and ease of mobility and access determine

destiny and regional or international infrastructure shapes international relations.

Domenico Celli
World Geography
Essay #2
Works Cited

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