The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) was first coined back in 2013 by China’s President Xi Jinping. Taking inspiration from the famous Silk Road that was established around 2000 years earlier during the Han Dynasty, it aims to grow and expand maritime routes and land infrastructure to improve trade.
China is a changing nation, one that is embracing trade and globalisation while looking to expand its reach and influence. The BRI is a prime example of Chinese globalisation and one that is helping the country to grow and offering more opportunities for businesses looking to trade with the nation.
China’s Aims with the Belt and Road Initiative
Firstly, it’s not actually a road (or belt). The BRI comprises sea routes linking China’s southern coast with East Africa and the Mediterranean, along with many land corridors connecting China to Europe, Central Asia, and the Middle East. It was introduced to boost trade and growth across Asia and further afield, through building large amounts of infrastructure.
There are other theories that the BRI is an economic plan that aims to open up new markets for Chinese goods and technology, as the country’s economy experiences something of a slowdown. It could help export excess steel and cement to developing nations, while making China the dominant power in Asia, at a time when Trump and the USA are stepping back or imposing tariffs on the region.
So far China has completed a couple of high-profile projects as part of the BRI. There was the $62bn China-Pakistan economic corridor (CPEC), which is claimed to have helped Pakistan achieve 5.8% economic growth in 2017. It is made up from a vast connection of motorways, power plants, wind farms, factories and railways, with some aspects of the project still under construction.
A $1.1bn port is being built in Sri Lanka, a high-speed rail link in Indonesia, and industrial park in Cambodia as other examples. Each of these aims to create an economic revolution, though as the BRI is only in its early years, the full impacts have not been felt yet, and still many other projects are still waiting to begin.
In total, $900bn in projects are planned and underway as part of the BRI, with China set to pump about $150bn into the initiative each year. Every infrastructure project aims to improve the economy of the particular country where it is being introduced, along with better connecting them to China and neighbouring countries.
Overall, China intends to create a large trade and infrastructure network that will greatly enhance globalisation. It will be both easier for China to get its goods out to new markets and vice versa.
So far more than 80 international organisations and countries have signed memorandums of understanding relating to the BRI. Many governments of the nearby countries that will be directly affected by the BRI, such as Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, are excited by it and the possibility of infrastructure investment in their countries.
However, there are others more worried that through such investment they will become indebted to China. While the likes of India think it may be more of a strategic plan to control the Indian Ocean and other parts of the region.
There is still a long way to go for the BRI, so the future will show how much it achieves in improving globalisation for China and the wider world.
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