Visitors walk past a wall with a map showing the species of peony in Belt and Road Initiative countries, at horticultural exhibition Beijing Expo 2019, in Beijing, China. Photo by: REUTERS / Stringer
Since its launch in 2013, China’s massive Belt and Road Initiative has become a highly talked-about global development initiative. We have estimated that China has so far committed over $600 billion under BRI, which now encompasses some 133 countries.
It is not surprising, therefore, that there are almost daily press stories about it, and numerous summits and meetings around the world have been convened to discuss it. Yet most of the current discourse, much of it critical of BRI, is limited to geopolitics; many of the initiative’s key economic aspects remain unexplored. And hardly any studies take into account the views of independent experts within BRI countries rather than what outsiders think.