China's new Silk Road: A link to sustainable development?

By Lean Alfred Santos 18 January 2016

A stretch of road along the Wakhan Corridor in northeastern Afghanistan, an area that was part of the old Silk Road. China's Belt and Road initiative aims to connect the country to the rest of Asia and parts of Europe and Africa through a complex series of land routes and maritime trading. Photo by: lensnmatter / CC BY

Just days after the official establishment and operations of the Beijing-based Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank on Christmas Day, Chinese officials were quick to dismiss speculation that President Xi Jinping’s other — and perhaps grander — international initiative is being used by Beijing as a geopolitical tool.

In a routine press briefing two weeks ago, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang explained that the East Asian nation’s much discussed One Belt One Road initiative will not be in any way a geopolitical tool, but rather an instrument of global growth and prosperity.

The Belt and Road initiative, as it is also known, was first proposed by Xi in a September 2013 speech in Kazakhstan. One component of a series of international cooperation initiatives, the initiative aims to connect China to the rest of Asia and parts of Europe and Africa through a complex series of land routes and maritime trading. The system would rely heavily on yet-to-be built hard and soft infrastructure. Financing will come primarily from China’s foreign exchange reserves as well as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, China Export-Import Bank and China Development Bank.

While the Chinese government released action plans and documents about the Belt and Road initiative in March and October last year, there are widespread questions on financing, local buy-in, crosscutting policy initiatives, differing development conditions of involved nations, and safeguards.

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About the author

Lean 2
Lean Alfred Santos@DevexLeanAS

Lean Alfred Santos is a Devex development reporter focusing on the development community in Asia-Pacific, including major players such as the Asian Development Bank and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. Prior to joining Devex, he covered Philippine and international business and economic news, sports and politics. Lean is based in Manila.


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