Belt and Road Initiative

11/11/2017 159 International Affairs | geopolitical issues | View Recent Current Affairs

  • China recently counselled India to shed its objections to the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and take advantage of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which had already drawn wide international support.
  • India was among a handful of countries that had skipped attendance in Beijing of the Belt and Road Forum in May, objecting to the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which passed through Kashmir.

About Belt and road initiative:

  • China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) aimed at improving China’s “connectivity” with the rest of the world.
  • It is intended to help close the development gap between wealthy Beijing and China's eastern states, and the underdeveloped west of China.
  • The idea is to promote development and “economic cooperation” along five corridors out of China: land routes through Central Asia to Europe; to the Middle East, and Southeast Asia; and sea routes connecting Chinese ports to Europe and to the South Pacific.
  • First mentioned by Mr Xi in speeches in 2013, the BRI’s import has suffered a bit from its confusing branding.
  • The initial English name 'One Belt, One Road', was changed in 2017 after foreigners consistently misunderstood it; and the confusion was not helped by the fact that the 'belt' refers to land routes (evoking the old Silk Road through central Asia) and the 'road' refers to shipping lanes from the ports of East Asia to the Middle East.


  • The concept is vast and complex, a work in progress, and details are hazy. It will take years for its shape and implications to emerge.
  • It’s not a multilateral organisation, like the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, nor a multilateral trade agreement like the defunct Trans-Pacific Partnership, but a plan for a series of bilateral projects, most yet to be figured out.
  • BRI suits a range of Beijing’s interests: it’s designed to spur economic development in China’s poor western provinces; it is a way of putting China’s surplus capital and surplus capacity to productive use, and it is also a “geopolitical exercise” designed to weaken US power and boost Chinese influence throughout its region and beyond.
  • An example of one significant BRI project that has multiple purposes is the creation of an overland route from Xinjiang in China’s far west through Pakistan to its deep water Gwadar port on the Arabian Sea. US$54 billion of infrastructure is planned for this stretch, despite some of the route passing through territory disputed by India and Pakistan.
  • The Karakoram Mountains from the old Silk Road route of the Karakoram Highway, on the Pakistan side of the China-Pakistan border.
  • This route gives China cargo overland access to the Arabian Sea, will spur investment in Xinjiang, and opens up a new route into China for energy imports from the Middle East - a route that is not vulnerable to US maritime power like its east coast sea lanes.

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