China's Belt and Road 2.0

April 26, 2019 13:40
Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers a keynote speech at the second Belt and Road Forum in Beijing on Friday. Photo: Reuters

China is hosting the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, a three-day event that got underway in Beijing on Thursday.

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) was first put forward by President Xi Jinping in October 2013. The words 'belt' and 'road' refer to Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21th Century Maritime Silk Road.

Though considered to be overly ambitious by many, Beijing has kept pushing the infrastructure-related project with great determination all these years.

What had been the result so far? Well, it depends how you look at it.

The BRI has, as of now, drawn in the participation of over 30 nations, including Italy, Switzerland and some other economies in Europe. This has exceeded initial expectations that the program will only develop into an alliance of developing nations.

But in terms of concrete results, there is yet to be any major Belt and Road project. The East Coast Railway Link in Malaysia was supposed to be a breakthrough, only to be suspended after a new government came in place in the country following an election last year.

Beijing will now unveil a revised Belt and Road plan, or BRI 2.0, at the current forum, according to Reuters.

China may agree to improve transparency of mega infrastructure projects, in order to ensure that the projects won’t saddle countries with unsustainable debt and to allay fears that the projects won’t undermine the participants' sovereignty.

It is widely believed that through BRI, China intends to export its production capacity, capital, industry standards and spread its influence and values across the world.

It will help Chinese businesses open up new markets. China also plans to challenge the hegemony of the US in global politics and ideology.

Since BRI is an unprecedented plan that involves a dozens of nations, and they all have different claims and infrastructure systems, it is quite natural that the program has to evolve from time to time in order to attract different stakeholders.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on April 24

Translation by Julie Zhu

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Hong Kong Economic Journal columnist