Diplomats & Leaders representing more than three dozen countries from across the globe gathered in Beijing for the second Belt and Road summit. The event marks the two-year anniversary since China first organized its flagship initiative to direct trillions of dollars of infrastructure across Eurasia and the Indian Ocean in a broad effort to recreate the old Silk Roads.
There is no doubt that China has advantage in establishing the new Silk Roads in the market before the any others and should be able to create a long-lasting impact, but the reality is that China is far from alone in sharing in the benefits and profits.
The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a development strategy adopted by the Chinese government involves infrastructure development and investment opportunities in 152 countries and international organizations in Europe, Asia, Middle East, Latin America and Africa. “Belt” refers to the overland routes for road and rail transportation, called “the Silk Road Economic Belt” whereas “road” refers to the sea routes, also the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. The original plan of “Belt and Road Initiative” is to carry out a innovative way of “collaborative globalisation” above and beyond US-led type. It was proposed five years ago by President Xi Jinping.
It is also known as the One Belt One Road (OBOR) and the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-century Maritime Silk Road.
The BRI emphasises cooperation in five areas: coordinating development policies; forging infrastructure and facilities networks; strengthening investment and trade relations; enhancing financial cooperation; and deepening social and cultural exchange.
Xi said a total of $64bn worth of agreements had been signed during the forum, but gave no information or acknowledged who signed them.
Till date, about $90bn have been invested in multiple BRI-related projects, but several hundred billion more have been loosely committed and it will be years before all that capital is invested, even though China’s two policy banks have more than $300bn in outstanding funding. The Belt and Road Initiative has already begun having effects across the region, and not always the ones China intended. Prominently, this has given rise to a welcome “infrastructure arms race” in which Japan, India, Europe and even, the U.S. are starting to actively compete with China to finance productive infrastructure and help BRI members to eventually resist Chinese dominance.
The plan has certainly attracted attention and 125 countries have signed up.