The Belt and Road Initiative: Issues and Future Trends

India Quarterly, Volume 79, Issue 2, Page 175-188, June 2023.
The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a China-led plan that involves infrastructure and construction projects in more than 140 countries, out of which 65 countries account for 30% of the world’s gross domestic product, 35% of the world’s trade, 39% of the global land, 64% of the world’s population, 54% of the world’s CO2 emissions and 50% of the world’s energy consumption (Du & Zhang, 2018, China Economic Review, 47, 189–205). The project announced in 2013 is often considered Chinese Premier Xi Jinping’s dream. It quickly grew in sectoral and geographical complexity from the Arctic to deep oceans, to Latin American countries, Africa and even collaborations in maritime and outer space. Nine years into the making, the project suffered disruption in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Travel restrictions and lockdowns led to suspension and slowdown in the project. However, the Chinese leadership continues to remain optimistic regarding the BRI and is opting for digital, health and sustainability models to keep the initiative running. The article analyses the strategic and economic significance of the BRI from its inception to now. It focuses on the impact of the pandemic on the BRI and stakeholders’ responses to the project, and looks into attempts by China to make it a success in the post-pandemic world.

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