Opening outward: Political horizons on the Belt & Road

Tempo de leitura: 1 minuto

The Chinese government has announced nearly $900 billion in infrastructure projects as part of its Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) – an economic, land and maritime trading route which will span 64 countries on three continents. Foreign policy questions continue to dominate the discussion on Beijing’s true intentions and whether the talk of ‘more-open trade’ can be taken at face value. But to what extent are concerns over China’s foreign policy tendrils justified?

President Xi Ping’s 2013 announcement, of an almost unprecedented network of infrastructure projects across three continents, to revive the ancient Silk Road trading route and develop a 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, was couched in the language of ‘trade’ and economic ‘integration’. However, for various reasons over the past years, the foreign policy context has been hard to ignore: On one hand, a westward, land-based ‘Silk Road’ will extend into Central Asia, Russia’s traditional sphere of influence. On the other, China’s outward looking policymaking is contrasted with the more parochial ‘America First’ stance of the new Trump administration. Somewhere in the middle is the concern, felt by western European nations, that China is engaging Central and East European (CEE) countries on a new kind of platform that is ‘neither bilateral nor European’, as argued by Jikkie Verlare and Frans Paul van der Putten of the Netherlands Institute of International Relations. The impact of such a platform could be potentially dividing the cohesion of the European Union’s attitudes toward Chinese foreign investment.

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