Product sourcing has come a long way from the days of the Silk Road. An ancient network of trade routes that connected Asia with Western countries beginning around 200 B.C., the Silk Road got its name from the Chinese silk that was transported along the route. The most important Eurasian trade route before the modern era, the Silk Road helped connect civilizations including China, Europe, Africa and the Indian subcontinent, fostering cultural interaction as well as financial gain.
Early trade routes like the Silk Road, the Spice Route and the Incense Route used pack animals and ships to transport both raw materials and luxury goods from one region to another. Sought-after goods such as Indian sandalwood, Egyptian glass, frankincense and myrrh, Chinese silk and Persian dates traveled along these routes.
Of course, ever since global trade began, it has involved risk. Written guides to trade routes offered advice for how traders could protect themselves and their cargo from marauding bandits and other hazards. Though the Chinese struggled to control nomadic hordes along the Silk Road, from time to time, the road became too unsafe to use, disrupting economies.
In the 1400s, the growth of the Ottoman Empire disrupted East-West trading, and the Silk Road fell into disuse. But Europeans were not ready to give up their connection with Asia once they had discovered its riches, and explorers worked hard to reopen a direct ocean route between Europe and the East. The desire for trade spurred Christopher Columbus' explorations: Columbus "discovered" America in his search for a direct route to Asia.
As ocean exploration increased, more and more countries claimed colonies for their own, then sold those colonies' raw materials, enriching themselves. As global trade became even more valuable to nations, it became increasingly regulated, especially after World War II. Laws were put into place supporting free trade, controlling what products and materials could enter or leave countries by sea and air, and imposing trade tariffs.
Today, the growth of the Internet has transformed the face of global trade as drastically as the Silk Road once did. Just as trade among nations helped previously isolated communities learn about other cultures, and exposed traders to new ideas, religions and ways of life, the Internet has allowed entrepreneurs in all nations to forge direct connections our forefathers could never have imagined.
In some ways, however, the Internet has created a new "Wild West" of global trade. Despite regulation, variations in legal, financial and business practices from country to country can cause problems, and placing orders with an unknown supplier can be nerve-wracking for a small business owner. In order to really know whom you're doing business with, it's important to have systems in place to vet your foreign colleagues. That's why Alibaba's expanded Trade Assurance program is so valuable to any small business owner entering the world of international trade.
Trade Assurance offers increased security by allowing buyers on Alibaba.com to select from approved suppliers whose previous transactions with others are rated and reviewed online. Participating sellers are indicated with a Trade Assurance seal so you can view their history and the amount of Trade Assurance coverage they have. Once you've selected your seller, Trade Assurance creates an online contract specifying the terms of your purchase and setting delivery dates and quality standards. If those standards are not met or the product is not delivered on time, Alibaba will reimburse your money up to the amount of Trade Assurance coverage held by the supplier.
Ever since the Middle Ages, steps have been taken to regulate trade and protect international traders and global trade routes. Trade Assurance is the latest addition to the safeguards available to ensure that your global sourcing experience is smooth as silk.
Learn more about Trade Assurance