What On Earth Is The Belt And Road Initiative?

If you have been paying any attention to world news recently, particularly with China in mind, you may have heard about something called the Belt and Road Initiative. However, the name alone doesn’t really describe exactly what it is and why China is estimated to be spending at least a trillion dollars on the project. In the following post we aim to fix that, by looking at exactly what it is and how it affects the rest of the world.

So, What Exactly Is The Belt And Road Initiative?

Masterminded by the Chinese Premier Xi Jinping, the Belt and Road Initiative is a rather confusing name for what looks set to be one of the most ambitious development plans of modern times. Essentially, China is looking to boost trade with other countries, while simultaneously increasing the economic growth of countries across Asia and elsewhere. It aims to achieve this by spending lots of money on building comprehensive infrastructure that will connect numerous countries across the world.

Where Does The Name Come From?

Many politicians in China, never mind outside of Asia, have struggled to really explain the concept and plans cohesively. Therefore, it shouldn’t really be surprising that the name is rather ill-conceived and not very descriptive of what is actually involved in the development.

Basically, the Belt and Road Initiative is separated into two main areas:

  • Silk Road Economic Belt (the belt part of the name)

  • 21st Century Maritime Silk Road (bizarrely, the road part)

Intriguingly, the actual road part of the title does not describe the road part of development, but a water-based route that will link the southern coast of China to eastern Africa and the Mediterranean. While the belt part consists of various land-based ‘corridors’ connecting China via the Middle East and Central Asia to Europe.

Funnily enough, the Chinese variation on the initiative’s name is ‘yi dai yi lu’ which is translated as ‘one belt, one road’.

When Was The Initiative First Established?

President Xi made a speech in Kazakhstan during September 2013 where he called for a ‘Silk Road Economic Belt’ to be built. It was soon after this that they expanded what the project would entail and gave it the catchy name it has now.

Why Is This Initiative So Important For China?

Experts have suggested that China has various goals it is looking to achieve with the Belt and Road development. Primarily, it could be seen as an economic plan designed to create and open up new markets for Chinese tech and goods. the economy is slowly in China. There is also thought that it is designed to move factories overseas into poorer countries, to help with steel capacity and exporting excess cement.

That being said, there are many political commentators who feel that Jinping is also using the Belt and Road Initiative as a risky way to boast the clout China has, while Donald Trump and the US take a step back from China and Asia. According to Tom Miller, author of a book name China’s Asian Dream all about the development.

There you have it, a brief but hopefully clearer view of what the Belt and Road Initiative actually is. Whether China follow through on their investments remains to be seen and only time will tell just how much of a success it actually turns out to be.