Return to the Library

The Risks Facing Belt and Road and China’s Choices in the New Situation


In this lengthy article, a BRI researcher at China Development Institute, a Shenzhen-based think tank, outlines perceived challenges to the Belt and Road Initiative around its 10th anniversary. These include geopolitical risks from competition with the United States, political and financial instability within partner countries, weak economic growth, and ill-defined goals and poor marketing. The author recommends Beijing improve risk monitoring and project oversight to manage financial and economic risks, and improve the BRI’s reputation across the globe by deepening diplomatic cooperation with a wide array of countries.

Key takeaways
  • Yan Shaojun, a BRI researcher at China Development Institute, a Shenzhen-based think tank, enumerates perceived successes of the BRI in increasing international trade flows, infrastructure connectivity, financial integration, and people-to-people exchanges, and suggests the primary risk to the BRI's future comes from geopolitical competition with the United States.
  • The author also details other external and internal developments perceived to cloud the future of the BRI, namely – downward pressures on China’s economy, security concerns in partner countries along the BRI, an increasingly complex global economic environment, geopolitical effects of the Russia-Ukraine war, weakening global growth, and the declining ability of partner countries to take on debt. Yan suggests there is significant skepticism towards the BRI in countries of the Asia-Pacific and regional powers like India, Japan and Russia.
  • In addition to this list of concerns, Yan suggests ill-defined goals and poor marketing curb the BRI's development and international acceptance.
  • To address these risks, the author proposes several policy recommendations, including strengthening oversight of overseas investments through risk prevention mechanisms, in coordination with host countries and multilateral organizations. The author also suggests improving investment and financing mechanisms for BRI projects, building better dispute settlement infrastructure, ensuring debt sustainability, and establishing rules and standards for participating countries and projects. 
  • To counter international skepticism of the BRI, the article suggests increasing cooperation and communication with the United States, strengthening economic ties with the EU, and deepening cooperation with Central Asia, Russia, Japan, India, and other neighbors.

FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrintCopy Link
Original text
English text
See an error? Drop us a line at
View the translated and original text side-by-side

I. The Belt and Road Initiative Is Moving Continuously Toward High-Quality Development


The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a major strategic choice made by the CCP Central Committee to coordinate international and domestic situations. It is an important initiative of China’s opening up to the outside, a top-level design for economic diplomacy, a proactive approach to promoting change in the global governance system, and a practical platform for building a community of common destiny for mankind. Over the past decade since the initiative was put forward, China has always adhered to the principles of extensive consultation, joint contribution, and shared benefits, and has continuously pushed the Belt and Road joint construction toward high-quality development.


In terms of policy communication, the linking of development plans continues to deepen. China has signed over 200 BRI cooperation documents with 150 countries and more than 30 international organizations. In 2022, China signed BRI cooperation plans with the African Union and Cuba, confirmed the extension of the Outline of the Plan for Constructing the China-Mongolia-Russia Economic Corridor with Russia and Mongolia, and signed an implementation plan for BRI cooperation with Kiribati.


The results of infrastructure connectivity cooperation projects have been remarkable. The China-Europe Railway Express has become a landmark project for BRI joint construction. As of the end of August 2022, China-Europe Railway Express trains had made a total of 60,000 trips, carrying the equivalent of 5.461 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) of goods, with a cumulative cargo value of nearly U.S. $300 billion and 82 transport lines had been laid down, reaching 200 cities in 24 countries in Europe. 1 With a transportation service network covering the whole territory of Europe, it has become a major international transportation artery connecting the Eurasian continent. The opening and operation of the China-Laos Railway, the Hungarian-Serbian Railway, and the Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway have made real contributions to local economic development and the improvement of people’s lives.


The quality and efficiency of trade flows have increased. As of June 2022, China’s cumulative trade in goods with countries along the BRI totaled about U.S. $12 trillion, and its non-financial direct investment in those countries exceeded U.S. $140 billion. China has signed seven free trade agreements with 13 BRI partner countries [共建国家]. It has signed “authorized economic operator” (AEO) mutual recognition agreements with a total of 32 countries and regions, and cooperation on trade security and customs clearance facilitation continues to deepen. The China International Import Expo, the Canton Fair, the China International Fair for Trade in Services, and the China International Consumer Products Expo have become regular institutionalized meetings, highlighting the attractions of China’s mega-market.

贸易畅通质效双升。截至2022年6月,中国与 “一带一路”沿线国家货物贸易额累计约12万亿美元,对沿线国家非金融类直接投资超过1400亿美元。中国已与13个共建国家签署7个自贸协定,已累计与32个共建国家和地区签署“经认证的经营者”(AEO)互认协议,贸易安全与通关便利化合作持续深化。进博会、广交会、服贸会、消博会等成为常态机制性会议,凸显了中国超大规模市场魅力。

Financial integration is advancing steadily. As of early July 2022, the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank had 105 members, with 181 approved projects and financing amounting to U.S. $35.7 billion, benefiting 33 members within and outside the Asian region. The China-EU Joint Investment Fund set up by the Silk Road Fund and the European Investment Fund has made investments in nearly 20 countries, involving more than 80 small and medium-sized enterprises, and the Multilateral Development Finance Cooperation Center Fund has been established. The level of RMB internationalization has been rising. By the end of July 2022, China had established bilateral local currency swap arrangements with more than 20 BRI partner countries and RMB clearing arrangements in more than ten BRI partner countries. The business volume and influence of the RMB Cross-Border Interbank Payment System (CIPS) have steadily increased.

资金融通稳步推进。截至2022年7月初,亚投行成员达105个,累计批准项目181个,融资达357亿美元,惠及33个亚洲域内外成员。丝路基金与欧洲投资基金设立的中欧共同投资基金已在近20个国家开展投资,涉及80多家中小企业,多边开发融资合作中心基金建立。人民币国际化水平不断提升。截至 2022年7月底,中国累计与20多个共建国家建立了双边本币互换安排,在10多个共建国家建立了人民币清算安排。人民币跨境支付系统(CIPS)业务量、影响力稳步提升。

People-to-people exchanges continue to deepen. The “Silk Road Community Building Initiative” [丝路一家亲] has carried out more than 300 livelihood cooperation projects in partner countries, and promoted the establishment of 600 cooperative partnerships between Chinese and foreign social organizations. More than ten educational co-hosting and cultural exchange brands such as “Lu Ban Workshop” [鲁班工坊] have gradually been formed, and a number of projects that are “small but beautiful, achieve fast results, and benefit people’s livelihoods” have effectively enhanced the sense of achievement of people in partner countries. Meanwhile, the accelerated development of the Silk Road of Health [健康丝绸之路], Digital Silk Road, and Green Silk Road has become a new highlight. China has launched the Initiative for BRI Partnership on Green Development [绿色发展伙伴关系倡议] with partner countries. China has established bilateral e-commerce cooperation mechanisms with 22 countries and regions on five continents, and cross-border e-commerce trade covers all the countries and regions along the BRI making “Silk Road e-commerce” a new highlight of BRI trade cooperation.


II. The new situation facing the high-quality development of the BRI


The world, the times, and history are changing in unprecedented ways. The theme of an era of peace and development has encountered serious difficulties, the evolution of changes unseen in a century has accelerated, the impact of COVID-19 continues to linger, competition triggered by a new round of S&T revolution and industrial change is becoming increasingly fierce, the impacts on the human community of global problems such as food crises, energy crises, financial risks, traditional security risks, risks to production and supply chains, and climate change risks are unprecedented. The international environment facing BRI construction is thus becoming ever more complex. At the same time, new problems arising from the transmission of external risks to the domestic market are intertwined with various risks and challenges in the domestic economy’s operation, and these are superimposed on and added to the problems existing in the BRI promotion process, so BRI construction faces many risks and challenges.


(i) U.S. containment of China continues to deepen, and the China-U.S. relationship is becoming primarily one of strategic competition


The essence of the changes unseen in a century is the change in the international balance of power. In 2021, China’s total economic output was nearly 80% of that of the United States, and it is expected to catch up with the United States in the next ten years, making the China-U.S. relationship a central factor shaping the course of the changes unseen in a century. Although China has always insisted on taking the road of peaceful development, the United States has “determined” that China, which is already ranked second in the world, is certain to challenge its hegemony. Since 2016, it has clearly regarded China as its number one competitor, and has been using all available diplomatic, economic, S&T, military, and ideological tools to counterbalance China. After the outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the United States did not slow down its all-out competition with China. It has launched the “Indo-Pacific Economic Framework,” stirred up the Taiwan issue, and sought to promote the expansion of NATO to Asia in order to try to weaken or slow down China’s development momentum. The U.S.-China relationship is undergoing a qualitative change, from a cooperation-based one with competition as a complement, towards one dominated by strategic competition. Although there is the possibility of localized détente in the China-U.S. relationship, the competitive nature and main tone of the relationship will not be fundamentally reversed, as they show trends of becoming comprehensive, long-term, and normalized.

百年变局的本质是国际力量对比的变化。2021年中国经济总量已接近美国的80%,未来十年有望赶上美国,中美关系成为牵动百年变局走向的核心因素。尽管中国一直坚持走和平发展道路,但美国 “认定”已经位居世界第二的中国一定会挑战其霸主地位,自2016年开始明确将中国视为头号竞争对手,动用一切可以动用的外交、经济、科技、军事、意识形态等工具抗衡中国。俄乌冲突爆发后,美国并未延缓对华全面竞争态势,推出“印太经济框架”,挑动台湾问题,欲推动北约向亚洲扩围,以图削弱或延缓中国发展势头,中美关系走向质变,从合作为主、竞争为辅,向以战略竞争为主转变。中美关系虽存在局部缓和的可能,但中美关系竞争本质和主基调不会发生根本性逆转,呈现全面性、长期化和常态化趋势。

(ii) The Russia-Ukraine conflict has intensified the evolution of the world structure, and the dilemma of global governance has become more pronounced.


With the once-in-a-century change of the Russia-Ukraine conflict and the impact of the COVID-19 epidemic being intertwined and superimposed, the international landscape is being reshaped in unprecedented ways. First, the expansion of the Cold War mentality has intensified along with geopolitical tensions, causing countries to pay more attention to traditional security issues and scramble to increase military spending. World peace thus faces major threats. Second, confrontation between camps has intensified. The United States uses its hegemony to rope many countries around the world into joining the U.S. camp. It has pushed NATO to make a “comeback” and “resurrect” the old Cold War alliance, and is pushing the West, as represented by NATO, to start a camp-based confrontation with Russia. It is attempting to take advantage of the Russia-Ukraine conflict to remake the European and global geopolitical landscape and regroup its old allies behind it in order to jointly contain emerging powers such as China whose strength continues to rise. At the same time, the United States and other Western countries are also trying to vigorously promote the “Indo-Pacific strategy” in the Pacific and Indian Ocean regions, launching the “Indo-Pacific Economic Framework,” attempting to make an Indo-Pacific version of NATO, build an economic camp and alliance decoupled from China’s economy, and trying to force regional countries to choose sides. Third, the global economy is being dragged down further. The Russia-Ukraine conflict has led to a sharp rise in global prices for energy, raw materials, and food, supply-demand imbalances in global commodity markets, a significant rise in inflationary pressures, and an intensification of food and energy crises. With 1.7 billion people around the globe in the midst of hunger, poverty, and instability, the outlook for the world economy is bleak.

俄乌冲突下百年变局与新冠肺炎疫情影响交织叠加,正在以前所未有的方式重塑国际局势。一是加剧冷战思维扩张和地缘政治紧张局势,引发各国对传统安全问题更加关注,争相增加军费开支,世界和平面临重大威胁。二是强化阵营对抗。美国利用霸权捆绑全球众多国家不断加入美国阵营,推动北约“东山再起”,冷战旧联盟“死灰复燃”,推动以北约为代表的西方国家与俄罗斯展开阵营对抗,试图借助俄乌冲突重构欧洲和全球地缘政治版图,将老牌盟友重新集结在其身后,以共同遏压实力不断崛起的中国等新兴大国。同时,美西方国家等还试图在太平洋和印度洋地区大力推动“印太战略”,启动“印太经济框架”,企图搞印太版的 “北约”,构建与中国经济脱钩的经济阵营与联盟,试图逼迫地区国家选边站队。三是进一步拖累全球经济。俄乌冲突使全球能源、原材料和粮食价格急剧上涨,全球商品市场供需错配,通胀压力显著上升,粮食危机、能源危机加剧,全球17亿人处于饥饿、贫困和动荡之中,世界经济前景暗淡。

The Russia-Ukraine conflict highlights the current dilemma of global governance. We cannot effectively resolve global challenges such as peace and development issues, poverty, ecological crises, public health crises, and supply chain crises by relying on the efforts of a single country alone, let alone turn international rules and standards into the political tool of a particular country. The construction of a more reasonable, just, and sustainable global governance system is an urgent issue we currently face, as well as a problem to be solved in the long term.


(iii) The economic globalization process is being impeded, and the international economic environment is growing more complex.


At present, the world is in a period of momentous development, change, and adjustment, and new contradictions and problems have emerged in the economic globalization process. In the United States and other developed countries, which have long been the promoters of economic globalization, “anti-globalization” has surged, and unilateralism, trade protectionism, and bullying are on the rise. The multilateral trading system—one of the two wheels that drive economic globalization forward—has been seriously hampered. Some regional trading arrangements have been influenced by the ideology and values of the United States, and are failing play their role in driving economic globalization effectively. The global COVID-19 pandemic and the continued evolution of the Russia-Ukraine conflict have had severe impacts on the already fragile world economy, and the anti-globalization trend has continued unabated. The uneven growth of the world economy has been exacerbated, trade and investment have contracted significantly, commodity and financial markets are turbulent, cultural exchanges have been curtailed, and development momentum has flagged. The IMF World Economic Outlook report has consecutively downgraded global economic growth expectations for 2022 and 2023. Under the combined effects of the Russia-Ukraine conflict and the pandemic, the global value chain has suffered a major impact. The global production and supply chain cycle became blocked, prompting the world’s countries to pay more attention to the structural contradictions embedded in globalization. With the United States stepping up promotion on a global scale of “delinking” from China’s economy and “breaking chains,” globalization shows trends of fragmentation, regionalization, and structuralization. The “globalized nature” of global production chains is weakening, “regionalization” is increasing significantly, and global supply chain costs are increasing as value chains shrink. This will become a general phenomenon in the medium and long term. For the majority of the BRI’s developing countries, the pandemic has dragged down global economic growth. The Russia-Ukraine conflict has led to a significant increase in commodity prices, and the Federal Reserve’s aggressive interest rate hikes have led to a continuous tightening of global liquidity, all of which has impacted the already fragile economies of BRI partner countries in terms of demand, production chains, supply chains, and capital chains, with some of them facing strong risks of capital outflow.

当前,世界正处于大发展大变革大调整时期,经济全球化进程中出现新的矛盾和问题,长期作为经济全球化推动者的美国等发达国家,“逆全球化”思潮涌动,单边主义、贸易保护主义、霸凌主义等不断抬头。驱动经济全球化向前发展的两个轮子中,多边贸易体制严重受阻,部分区域贸易安排受美意识形态和价值观等影响,对经济全球化的驱动作用未能得到有效发挥。新冠疫情全球大流行和俄乌冲突持续演化严重冲击本已脆弱的世界经济,逆全球化趋势有增无减,加剧了世界经济增长不均衡,贸易投资大幅萎缩,大宗商品和金融市场动荡,人文交流受限,发展动力下降。IMF《世界经济展望报告》已经连续下调2022和2023年全球经济增长预期。特别是受俄乌冲突和疫情双重影响,全球价值链受到重大冲击,全球产业链供应链循环受阻,促使世界各国对全球化蕴含的结构性矛盾更加重视关注,美国加大在全球范围推动对中国经济 “脱钩”和“断链”等,全球化呈现出碎片化、区域化、结构化趋势,全球产业链的“全球性”减弱及“区域性”显著增强,全球供应链成本增大和价值链收缩,将成为中长期的普遍现象。对于广大共建 “一带一路”发展中国家而言,疫情拖累全球经济增长,俄乌冲突导致大宗商品价格显著上涨,美联储激进加息致使全球流动性持续收紧,并从需求端、生产链、供应链、资金链等环节冲击共建国家本已脆弱的经济,部分国家面临较强的资本外流风险。

(iv) A new round of S&T revolution and industrial change is advancing in depth, and competition in digital fields is becoming more intense.


The new generation of information and digital technology is the most advanced productive force of our time, leading a fourth industrial revolution with digitalization, intelligentization, and networkization as its core features. In recent years, innovation has been accelerating in technologies such as the internet, big data, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and blockchain. They are increasingly becoming integrated throughout the entire process of every field of economic and social development. Countries are competing with each other to formulate development strategies and promulgate incentive policies for the digital economy. The digital economy is thus becoming a critical force reorganizing global factor resources, reshaping the global economic structure, and changing the global competitive landscape. The COVID-19 epidemic has produced a serious impact on the economic and social operation of countries around the world. Most industries were not spared, but the digital economy has played a unique role in combating and mitigating the impact of the epidemic, accelerating the digital transformation of countries around the world. In the post-pandemic era, the digital economy will fully penetrate all aspects of social life. The acceptance of new application forms has generally increased at all levels of society, as people become more and more adapted to and accustomed to digitalized, intelligentized, and online production and lifestyles. An even wider range of application scenarios and growth potential can be expected. At the same time, competition among major countries to seize the commanding heights of global digital economic development is becoming increasingly fierce. The United States relies on its lead in technological innovation to create a global advantage in the digital economy. The European Union takes the exploration of digital governance rules and the construction of a digital single market as the two wheels to drive construction of a strong and unified digital economy ecosystem; and the UK continues to improve the overall layout of the digital economy, and is using digital government to lead the digital transformation. The United States is even joining hands with allies across two oceans to compete with China in the fields of digital infrastructure and new energy, and is trying to establish “de-sinicized” data standards globally, so as to dominate the setting of standards and occupy the commanding heights of digital competition in the future. Looking ahead, the struggle for dominance of digital rules will become more intense.


(v) China’s economy faces downward pressures, but the long-term positive fundamentals remain unchanged.


China’s development has entered a period where strategic opportunities and risks and challenges coexist, and uncertainties are multiplying. From a long-term perspective, the problem of unbalanced and insufficient development in China has not been fundamentally solved, people’s growing demand for better lives still needs to be continually satisfied, and the tasks of reform, development, and stabilization are still very heavy. On the other hand, though, China has started a new journey to build a modern socialist country in all respects, focusing on promoting high-quality development, accelerating the construction of the new development pattern, and pushing forward the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation in an all-round way with Chinese-style modernization. The positive long-term fundamentals of China’s economy will not change. First, from the perspective of consumption, China has the advantage of a super-large market. Through the establishment of a unified domestic market, it will further stimulate and unleash the vitality of that domestic mega-market, and give full play to the fundamental role of consumption in promoting economic development. This is the greatest foundation for the long-term improvement of the Chinese economy. Second, from an investment perspective, China’s investment in traditional industries is relatively saturated, but in the context of the new round of S&T revolution, many new investment opportunities are continuously emerging in areas like new infrastructure, new technologies, new products, new business models, and the digital economy, so investment can also still play a key role in promoting economic development. Third, from the perspective of exports, China has the most complete production chains in the world and still has a strong competitive edge in exports. In recent years especially, China has accelerated the construction of a new open economic system, and through BRI construction, active promotion of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and other regional economic agreements, and free trade areas (FTAs), and the construction of domestic free trade zones and free trade ports, it has cultivated and shaped new advantages in international competition, and expanded its external development space.


III. Major Risks for the BRI’s High-Quality Development

三、共建“一带一路” 高质量发展面临的主要风险

In the face of the complex and severe development environment at home and abroad, the importance of the BRI has become more prominent, and the risks and challenges it faces are more worthy of attention and focus.


(i) Strategic competition risks


The structural contradictions between China and the United States are the main contradictions in the current international system. With the changes in the structural contradictions between China and the United States, the strengthening of U.S. strategic competition with China, and the in-depth promotion of BRI construction and the emergence of its striking effects, the BRI is regarded as a key area of strategic competition between the two countries. In recent years, the United States has put forward a number of initiatives that compete with the BRI, and has continuously strengthened its strategic balancing against the BRI. Under the influence of U.S. strategy and public opinion, India, Japan and other large neighboring countries, the European Union, and even some partner countries have deepened their doubts about the BRI, and the risk of strategic competition in promoting the high-quality development of the BRI will exist over the long term.


1. The United States continues to strengthen its strategic balancing against the BRI.

1. 美国不断加强对“一带一路”的战略制衡

The U.S. factor is the biggest external risk factor in BRI construction, and also a long-term issue in promoting the high-quality development of the Belt and Road. In recent years, in order to curb China’s BRI construction, the United States has successively put forward the “Prosper Africa” initiative,” the “Blue Dot Network” program,” the “Growth in the Americas,” initiative, the “United States Strategy for Central Asia,” and the “Economic Prosperity Network” plan. Under the framework of the Indo-Pacific Strategy, it has launched a U.S.-Japan investment and financing partnership for high-quality infrastructure in the Indo-Pacific, the U.S.-Japan-Australia “Trilateral Partnership for Indo-Pacific Infrastructure Investment,” and the U.S.-Japan-Australia-India “Quadrilateral Mechanism.” After the Biden administration took office, it accelerated the upgrading of the U.S.-Japan-Australia-India Quadrilateral Mechanism, and pushed for a joint response to the BRI in the transatlantic direction. At the G7 meeting in June 2021, Biden led the G7 to reach a consensus on the “Build Back Better World” (B3W) initiative, and proposed exploring and promoting the “Indo-Pacific Economic Framework” with allies and partners, attempting a “two-ocean alliance linkage” to respond to China’s BRI. The “Indo-Pacific Economic Framework” was launched in May 2022. Under this framework, the United States will strengthen cooperation with the region’s countries in the fields of energy development, infrastructure construction, and the digital economy, providing host countries with an alternative to the BRI. In June 2022, the United States took the lead and joined with the Group of Seven (G7) in announcing the launch of the Global Infrastructure and Investment Partnership (GIIP), which is another global infrastructure program launched by the United States in collaboration with its G7 allies in an attempt to challenge China’s BRI, showing that the United States’ strategic counterbalancing of the BRI has continued to strengthen.

美国因素是“一带一路”建设推进中最大的外部风险因素,也是推动共建“一带一路”高质量发展面临的长期课题。近年来,为遏制中国“一带一路”建设,美国先后提出 “繁荣非洲倡议”“蓝点网络计划”“美洲增长倡议”“美国中亚战略”“经济繁荣网络计划”,在“印太战略”框架下开展美日“印太高质量基础设施”投融资合作关系、美日澳“‘印太’基础设施投资伙伴关系”、美日澳印“四边机制”等。拜登政府上任后,加快升级美日澳印四边机制,在跨大西洋方向推动共同应对“一带一路”。2021年6月,拜登主导七国集团在G7会议上达成“重建更美好世界”倡议共识,提出与盟友伙伴探索推动“新印太经济框架”,试图联合“两洋盟友联动”应对中国 “一带一路”。 2022年5月,“印太经济框架”启动,在此框架下,美国将加强与地区国家在能源开发、基础设施建设以及数字经济领域的合作,为东道国提供“一带一路”的替代性方案。2022年6月,美国牵头联手七国集团共同宣布发起“全球基础设施和投资伙伴关系”计划,这是美国联手G7盟友再次推出全球基建计划,试图挑战中国发起的“一带一路”倡议,表明美国对“一带一路”的战略制衡将不断加强。

2. Doubts about the BRI continue to exist and deepen in Japan, India, and other neighboring countries

2. 日本、印度等周边国家对“一带一路”倡议疑虑持续存在并不断加深

Japan is a strategic ally of the United States and actively participates in various infrastructure cooperation programs under the “Indo-Pacific Strategy” led by the United States and the West. Japan believes that the BRI will further weaken its influence in the Asia-Pacific region, so it has proposed strategies such as the “Partnership for Quality Infrastructure” to compete with the BRI, and made them Japan’s principal means of deepening the “Indo-Pacific Strategy” and hedging against China’s BRI construction. In 2019, Japan, the United States, and Australia jointly launched the “Blue Dot Network” program. Japan also took advantage of the opportunity of hosting the G20 summit in Osaka in 2019 to launch the “G20 Principles for Quality Infrastructure Investment,” with the aim of leading in global infrastructure standards and rules. Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Japan has taken the international situation into account and adjusted its high-quality infrastructure partnership strategy in terms of strategic content, support mechanisms, and international cooperation. In June 2021, Japan issued the Infrastructure System Overseas Promotion Strategy 2025 (Revised Version), which aims to increase export cooperation in new infrastructure fields such as health and digital and green infrastructure, and proposes to carry out focused cooperation with the United States on high-quality infrastructure, strengthen third-party connectivity through cooperation with India’s “Look East Policy,” and develop specific cases of cooperation with Australia in third-party infrastructure.

日本是美国的战略盟友,积极参与美西方主导的“印太战略”下的各项基础设施合作计划,认为“一带一路”将进一步削弱其亚太影响力,提出 “高质量基础设施伙伴计划”等与“一带一路”相竞争的战略,使之成为日本深化“印太战略”、对冲中国共建“一带一路”倡议的主要抓手。2019年,日美澳三国共同发起了“蓝点网络计划”,日本还利用2019年主办大阪G20峰会的契机推出“G20高质量基础设施投资原则”,旨在引领全球基础设施标准规则。新冠疫情暴发以来,日本结合国际形势,从战略内容、支持机制及国际合作等方面调整高质量基础设施合作伙伴关系战略。 2021年 6月,日本推出《基础设施海外推进战略2025(改订版)》,加大健康、数字、绿色等新型基础设施领域出口合作,提出与美国在高质量基础设施方面展开重点合作、与印度“东向政策”合作加强第三方连接性、与澳大利亚在第三方形成具体合作案例等。

India has responded actively to and participated in the “Indo-Pacific Strategy” led by the United States and the West in recent years, and has always been highly wary of the BRI. It is the only country along the BRI that has not expressed its support in an official document. India believes that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor “infringes” on India’s “sovereignty,” and has successively proposed “Project Mausam,” the “Asia-Africa Growth Corridor,” and the “India-Pacific Oceans Initiative,” and attempted to strengthen third-party market cooperation with Japan and the EU in the field of infrastructure. The intention of hedging against the BRI is obvious. However, in terms of implementation, the progress of the India-led strategic hedging program has been very limited, reflected more in actively following various strategic hedging plans under the “Indo-Pacific Strategy” led by the United States and the West to contain and hinder the development of China’s Belt and Road.


3. Russia still has strategic reservations against the BRI

3. 俄罗斯对“一带一路”存在战略防范

As the Central Asian region through which the Silk Road Economic Belt in the BRI is being built is Russia’s traditional geopolitical sphere of influence, Russia was once strategically skeptical of the Belt and Road, and it proposed the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) that it dominates. However, with the in-depth promotion of BRI construction, Russia gradually began to respond positively to the Belt and Road. Since the start of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, with Russia and the United States and the West having fallen into a confrontational situation, linkage and cooperation between the BRI and the Russia-dominated EEU is expected to strengthen. At the same time, we should also soberly recognize that Russia’s strategic doubts about China’s entry into its traditional sphere of influence will not be eliminated completely. It is also worried that deep involvement in the BRI would lead to strategic dependence on China, harm the EEU strategy it dominates, and weaken its control over the Siberian region and its traditional influence over Central Asia. Therefore, Russia’s attitude toward the BRI is likely to be one of strategic cooperation coexisting with strategic preparedness.


4. The European Union’s doubts about the BRI are rising.

4. 欧盟对“一带一路”疑虑在不断上升

Under the influence of U.S. strategy and public opinion tarnishing, some EU countries have strategic miscalculations and misperceptions regarding the BRI. The EU’s apprehensions about the BRI have grown, especially in recent years, and it has successively proposed the EU-Asia Connectivity Strategy, the EU-Japan Connectivity Partnership, and the EU-India Connectivity Partnership Agreement, etc. The expansion of infrastructure connectivity has become one of the main areas of focus for the EU. In December 2021, the EU announced the “Global Gateway,” claiming that it would make this program a more trustworthy brand than China’s BRI. The strategic competition intent is obvious, and it is regarded by outsiders as a key measure for the EU to engage in systematic strategic competition with China. In recent years, strategic interaction between the United States and Europe in jointly responding to China’s Belt and Road Initiative has increased. The G7 summits in the past two years successively reached a consensus on the B3W initiative and the “Global Infrastructure and Investment Partnership.” In the context of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the EU’s strategic independence has been frustrated, and the prospects for the implementation of the “Global Gateway” program it leads are not bright. However, joint U.S.-EU strategic coordination on responding to China is increasing, and we must be wary of the United States and the EU developing substantive strategic coordination targeting the BRI.

在美国战略与舆论抹黑影响下,欧盟一些国家对“一带一路”存在战略误判和错误认知,尤其是近年来欧盟对“一带一路”疑虑不断上升,先后提出欧亚互联互通战略、欧盟—日本互联互通计划、欧盟—印度互联互通伙伴关系协议等,扩大基础设施互联互通成为欧盟主要的抓手之一。2021年12月欧洲联盟(EU)公布“全球门户”,宣称要将此计划打造成比中国“一带一路”倡议更值得信赖的品牌,战略竞争意图明显,被外界认为是欧盟与中国进行系统性战略竞争的一项关键举措。近年来,美欧共同应对中国“一带一路”的战略互动增强,近两年的G7峰会先后达成“重建更美好世界”倡议和 “全球基础设施和投资伙伴关系”共识。俄乌冲突下,欧盟战略自主受挫,主导的“全球门户”计划落实前景不容乐观,但美欧共同应对中国的战略协调加大,要谨防美欧形成针对“一带一路”的实质性战略协调。

As can be seen from the foregoing, the United States, Japan, India, the EU, Russia, and other major economies have all put forward strategic hedging programs to compete with the BRI, which will inevitably have an impact on the high-quality development of the BRI.


(ii) Geopolitical and security risks


The BRI involves Central Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, Europe, Africa, and other regions. The political systems, political traditions, and political situations of the countries along the routes and partner countries are all very different. They face complex political risks from domestic political movements and domestic and international security challenges. In particular, the Central Asian, Middle Eastern, and Southeast Asian countries and regions through which the BRI passes are rich in natural and strategic resources. They are important regions where the world’s major countries engage in geopolitical games, and are susceptible to disruptions and interventions by internal and external forces. The situation they present is one of domestic volatility, frequent regime changes, lack of continuity in domestic and foreign policies, and high levels of traditional and non-traditional security risks. This has become one of the prominent risks faced in advancing BRI joint construction.


1. Geopolitical risks are increasing

1. 地缘政治风险加大

Political risk is the uncertainty risk posed to the economic interests of foreign-invested enterprises by changes in the political environment of the host country or political relations between the host country and other countries. The political risks faced by the BRI are multifaceted. The BRI routes through Southeast Asia, Central Asia, and other regions are sensitive zones of games between powers. As the U.S.-China game intensifies, geopolitical risks have increased.


Central Asia is in the center of the Eurasian continent, but it is also the central region of the BRI and a land that the Silk Road Economic Belt must pass through. With its abundant natural resources and prominent geostrategic position, it has become an important region of geopolitical competition between major powers. In February 2020, the United States announced the United States Strategy for Central Asia 2019-2025: Advancing Sovereignty and Economic Prosperity. Since the start of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the United States has stepped up efforts to penetrate Central Asia, and Russia has never abandoned its traditional influence on the Central Asian region. The political risks for the future of the BRI in Central Asia are very pronounced.


Southeast Asia is connected to China by mountains and rivers, and is the center of gravity of the BRI. Over the past decade, China and Southeast Asia have achieved significant results in economic and trade cooperation under the BRI framework. China has been ASEAN’s top trading partner for 13 consecutive years, and ASEAN has been China’s top trading partner for two consecutive years starting in 2020. With the intensification of the U.S.-China game, the United States has attempted to use ASEAN as a breach point for encircling China, and it has been increasing its investment in ASEAN. The Indo-Pacific Strategy document released on the official website of the U.S. White House in February 2022 clearly indicates that ASEAN is the centerpiece of the regional framework, and that the United States will deepen its long-term cooperation with ASEAN. In May 2022, the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) was launched, and a special ASEAN-U.S. summit issued a statement on upgrading bilateral relations. At the same time, the United States launched the ASEAN B3W program and other initiatives to expand U.S. influence in the region. It is using regional initiatives such as the Mekong-U.S. Partnership to expand U.S. influence in the region, and capitalizing on the Russia-Ukraine conflict to promote NATO’s eastward expansion, even its Asianization. The environment for the BRI in ASEAN and the entire neighborhood will thus be more complex and will face more uncertainties.

东南亚地区与我山水相连,是“一带一路”的重心所在,近10年来,在共建“一带一路”框架下中国与东南亚经贸合作取得重大成效。中国已连续 13年成为东盟的第一大贸易伙伴,东盟于2020年起连续两年成为中国的第一大贸易伙伴。随着中美博弈加剧,美试图将东盟作为围堵中国的突破口,加大了对东盟的投入力度。2022年2月,美国白宫官网公布的印太战略文件中明确表示,东盟是区域框架的核心,美国将深化与东盟的长期合作。2022年5月,“印太经济框架”启动,东盟—美国特别峰会发表关于升级双边关系的声明,同时,美国推出东盟B3W计划等,利用湄公河—美国伙伴关系等区域倡议扩大美国在该地区的影响力,借俄乌冲突推动北约东扩乃至亚洲化,“一带一路”建设在东盟乃至整个周边的环境将更为复杂,也将面临更多的不确定性。

In addition, in the context of U.S. penetration and co-option, some pivot states also have heightened geopolitical risks. In recent years, the United States has been increasing the promotion of political, economic, and security cooperation with Myanmar. Although China-Myanmar relations continue to maintain steady development momentum, the two countries’ cooperation on large projects has basically stalled. Pakistan’s domestic political situation has been chaotic in recent years. Local separatism is prevalent, terrorism is rampant, government rule is weak in tribal areas, and with the United States continuing to expand its penetration and control of Pakistan, geopolitical risks in the construction of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor have risen. In the context of the Russia-Ukraine conflict’s ongoing evolution, in August 2022 Estonia and Latvia followed Lithuania in formally announcing that they would withdraw from the China-led “17+1” cooperation mechanism, accelerating their move towards the United States and increasing the uncertainties in China’s cooperation with Central and Eastern Europe under the BRI framework.

此外,在美渗透和拉拢下,一些支点国家也存在地缘政治加大风险。近年来,美国不断加大推进与缅甸的政治、经济以及安全等方面的合作,中缅关系虽然继续保持平稳发展的势头,但两国的大项目合作基本停滞不前。巴基斯坦近年来国内政局混乱、地方分离主义盛行、恐怖主义势力猖獗,部族地区的政府统治薄弱,美国不断加大对巴基斯坦的渗透和控制,中巴经济走廊建设地缘政治风险上升。在俄乌冲突持续演化背景下,2022年8月,继立陶宛之后,爱沙尼亚与拉脱维亚正式宣布退出由中国所主导的“17+1”合作机制,加速向美靠拢, “一带一路”框架下中国与中东欧合作变数增多。

2. Traditional and non-traditional security risks remain high

2. 传统与非传统安全风险居高不下

The routes along the BRI are broad in scope and involve many countries, and these countries and regions are the key crossroads of many civilizations. The relevant countries and regions have different political systems, different levels of development, and different social systems, historical traditions, religious beliefs, ethnic relationships, etc. Hotspot issues and territorial and island sovereignty disputes occur frequently, and there are longstanding security risks. At the same time, many countries are in periods of social transition, with domestic political instability and intertwined social contradictions, and regime changes may affect the continuity of government policies, thereby affecting the BRI’s sustained and effective promotion. In addition, non-traditional security issues such as ethnic separatism, international terrorism, and religious extremism will persist for a long time, directly affecting the in-depth promotion of BRI construction.


(iii) Macroeconomic risks and investment and financing risks


Economic risks are key factors in deciding whether to carry out economic, trade, and investment cooperation. With the continuous promotion of BRI construction, China has increased its foreign investment and cooperation with countries along its routes. According to statistics, from 2013 to 2021, China’s direct investment in countries along the routes totaled U.S. $161.3 billion, with an average annual growth rate of 5.4%, and the countries along the BRI have become the first choice of China’s enterprises for outbound investment. China’s contracted projects in those countries, which cover a wide range of fields such as transportation and electric power, have a cumulative value of U.S. $1.1 trillion and have completed turnover of U.S. $728.6 billion.2 As the layout of China’s outbound investment continues to expand and the fields for investment continue to broaden, and given that most of the infrastructure investment is characterized by large investment scale and long construction periods, the uncertainty of a large number of economic factors has produced a negative impact on the high-quality development of the BRI, and has become an economic risk that needs to be addressed.

经济风险是决定是否开展经贸投资合作的关键因素。随着“一带一路”建设的不断推进,中国加大了对沿线国家的对外投资合作。据统计,2013—2021年,我国对沿线国家直接投资累计1613亿美元,年均增长5.4%,“一带一路”沿线国家已成为我国企业对外投资的首选地;我国在沿线国家承包工程新签合同额累计约1.1万亿美元,完成营业额 7286亿美元,涵盖交通、电力等多个领域。随着中国对外投资布局的不断扩大和领域的不断拓展,且大部分基础设施领域投资具有投资规模大、建设周期长的特点,大量经济因素的不确定性对“一带一路”倡议高质量发展产生了消极影响,成为需要面对的经济风险。

1. Economic growth risks are increasing

1. 经济增长风险加大

In recent years, global economic growth momentum has clearly been insufficient, and the COVID-19 epidemic has subjected almost all countries around the world to varying degrees of impact and adverse effects. At the same time, the Russia-Ukraine conflict and games between powers have been superimposed on and amplified those effects, and various kinds of risks have been intertwined and aggregated. Inflation is high in Europe, the United States, and other major countries, and they have begun to implement aggressive interest rate hike policies, resulting in tighter global financing terms and weakening global economic growth. Most of the countries participating in the BRI are developing countries, which have their own problems of inadequate economic development momentum and obvious economic externalities. Therefore, weakening global economic growth and the actions taken by certain countries will have a greater impact on developing countries and exacerbate the further slowdown in economic growth. Under these conditions, expectations for high long-term growth of the economies of BRI partner countries are not optimistic, and the risks behind their growth are relatively high. In the past few years, most of the BRI’s landmark projects have been infrastructure projects with large capital investment and long construction cycles, which makes them prone to the effects of economic fluctuations. The weakening macroeconomic growth prospects of these countries poses a challenge to the sustainability of China’s overseas investment, and at the same time aggravates the financing pressures faced by China. How to broaden financing channels, augment financing methods, and promote financing cooperation and coordination among governments has become a major challenge confronting BRI construction.


2. Debt crisis risk persist

2. 债务危机风险持续存在

Debt crisis is a hot topic in the current world economy. For sovereign countries, it is also a key risk to be prevented in the economic field. Since 2017, western think tanks have continually played up the “debt trap” problem of China’s BRI and this has had a substantial impact on the BRI’s reputation and high-quality development. At the same time, since the outbreak of the COVID-19 epidemic, there has been a general economic downturn among countries, and government revenues have declined. In 2022, the COVID-19 epidemic, superimposed on the Russia-Ukraine conflict, large fluctuations in commodity prices, and aggressive monetary policies in Europe and the United States, caused serious impacts on the already fragile economic growth of developing countries. Governments increased spending to restore their economies, and debt levels continue to be high. Some countries have had debt crises, but Chinese investment was not the main cause of the high debt risk of those countries, and the major investment target countries along the routes did not experience a significant increase in the debt burden phenomenon. The World Bank’s database shows that as of the end of 2020, in the public external debt structures of 82 low-income and lower-middle-income countries, commercial and multilateral creditors accounted for 40% and 34% respectively, and China accounted for less than 10%. Empirical analysis by authoritative institutions shows that the debt of BRI-related countries to China only accounts for 1.8% of their average GDP, far below the international alert level of 60%; the debt burden ratio of a number of countries to China is less than 1% in most years. 3 For example, in Sri Lanka, which is often mentioned by Western think tanks, Chinese debt accounts for a relatively small proportion of the debt structure, only 10%, and it has long maturities and low interest rates. However, China is indeed a major creditor of such BRI partner countries as Pakistan, Angola, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Myanmar, and most of them guarantee with sovereign credit. Against the backdrop of the weakening ability of major countries to repay their debts, debt risks are rising, and there are long-term debt sustainability risks. In addition, while China’s foreign investment information is not transparent, Chinese enterprises hold excessively large shares of foreign investment projects, and this has become an excuse for the international community and host countries to criticize the BRI as a “debt trap.”

债务危机是当前世界经济中的热点话题,也是主权国家经济领域重点防范的风险。自2017年起、西方智库持续渲染中国“一带一路”“债务陷阱”问题,已经对“一带一路”的声誉和高质量发展造成实质性影响。同时,自新冠疫情暴发以来,各国经济普遍下滑,财政收入减少, 2022年,新冠疫情叠加俄乌冲突,大宗商品价格大起大落,欧美国家激进的货币政策严重冲击本已脆弱的发展中国家经济增长。为了恢复经济,政府加大开支,债务水平持续高企,一些国家出现了债务危机,但中国投资并非造成这些国家高债务风险的主因,沿线主要投资国并未出现债务负担显著加重现象,世界银行数据库显示,截至2020年底,82个低收入和中等偏下收入国家的公共外债结构中,商业和多边债权人分别占比40%和34%,中国占比不足10%。权威机构的实证分析显示,“一带一路”相关国家对华债务仅占其GDP平均值的1.8%,远低于60%的国际警戒水平;多个国家在大多数年份对华债务负担率都不足1%。以西方智库经常提及的斯里兰卡为例,在斯里兰卡的债务结构中,中国债务占比较少,仅占 10%,且期限长、利率低。不过,中国确实是巴基斯坦、安哥拉、肯尼亚、埃塞俄比亚、缅甸等“一带一路”共建国家的主要债权国,且大多为主权信用担保,在主要国家偿还债务能力走弱的背景下,债务风险上升,长期存在债务可持续性风险。此外,中国对外投资信息不透明,中国企业在对外投资项目中占股比例过高等,成为国际社会和东道国非议“一带一路”为“债务陷阱”的口实。

3. Financing exchange rate risk is rising

3. 融资汇率风险上升

Many projects in the early stage of BRI construction have been infrastructure connectivity projects, which are characterized by large-scale investment and long payback periods, and must obtain reasonable financing guarantees, but the financing structure is relatively complicated. Countries along the BRI generally lack funds for development, their economic and financial systems are backward, and risk prevention mechanisms are not sound. As a result, in many cases it is difficult to make institutionalized arrangements for the order of financing repayment, repayment guarantees, and financing indicators, which not only affects the scale of financing, but is also certain to affect the subsequent security of financing. In addition, exchange rates also present certain risks and challenges. The foreign exchange reserves of small and medium-sized countries are extremely limited. As a result, exchange rate changes and the limited degree of RMB internationalization make it difficult to achieve delivery of much of the investment gains.


4. Business environment risks have long existed

4. 营商环境风险长期存在

BRI construction involves many countries. Most of the countries concerned have not yet achieved comprehensive modernization, and their business environments have not seen significant improvement for a long time. Some countries face various internal and external problems, political unrest, and high risk of war. There is greater uncertainty in the business environment, so the investments and operations of Chinese enterprises in the relevant countries face greater risks. For example, Ukraine is an important country for BRI construction, but the outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine conflict has caused a large number of China’s infrastructure investments in Ukraine to come to nothing. The market and legal systems of some countries are not very sound, and investment by Chinese enterprises in these countries has high risks in terms of tax accounting, patent protection, and breach or termination of contract. The laws and regulations of some countries are not in line with international norms, and there is over-regulation of foreign investment and over-protection of domestic investment. In addition, due to the slowdown in economic growth and the decline in people’s living standards, various forms of populism and trade protectionism have gained ground, and certain countries have raised the costs of China’s outbound investment in the name of “labor protection” and “environmental protection.”

“一带一路” 建设涉及国家多,且相关国家大多尚未实现全面的现代化,营商环境长期得不到明显改善。一些国家面临各种内忧外患,政治动荡和战争风险高企,营商环境出现较大不确定性,中资企业在相关国家的投资和经营面临较大风险。如乌克兰是共建“一带一路”的重要国家,俄乌冲突爆发使得中国在乌克兰的大量基础设施投资化为乌有。部分国家市场和法制还不是十分健全,中国企业在这类国家的投资存在较高的税务核算、专利保护、违约解约风险。一些国家的法律与规则不符合国际规范,存在对外资过度规制与内资过度保护的现象。此外,由于经济增速放缓,民生水平下降,各种形式的民粹主义和贸易保护主义抬头,某些国家打着“劳工保护”“环境保护”等旗号,抬升了中国对外投资成本。

(iv) International public opinion risk


Developed countries in the West, led by the United States, have long firmly maintained dominance in world public opinion and international discourse, while China and developing countries have been in a weak position. Ever since the BRI was put forward in 2013, stigmatization of it in public opinion has never ceased. This has caused and will continue to cause substantial harm to the BRI.


At first, lack of understanding of the Belt and Road, viewing China from an ideological perspective, and feelings of imbalance and discomfort at China’s rapid rise led to misunderstandings and misinterpretations of the BRI by some elements of foreign public opinion. They maintain that the BRI is China’s version of the Marshall Plan, or that it is a “geo-expansionist theory” to fight with the West for supremacy, or a “new tribute system.” In the past two years, with the China-U.S. game intensifying and the BRI’s impressive effects gradually becoming evident, negative narratives such as so-called “economic colonialism,” “economic plunder theory,” “environmental damage theory,” “mask and vaccine diplomacy” and so on have appeared. Especially since 2017, with the emergence of demonstration effects from the BRI’s landmark infrastructure connectivity projects, arguments about the “debt trap” have made a tremendous clamor, becoming the focus of international public opinion along with changes in the international economic situation, and have become the biggest public opinion risk for the current and future period.

起初,对“一带一路”不了解,从意识形态角度看待中国,对中国快速崛起心存不平衡、不适应等,致使一些国外舆论对“一带一路”出现了误解和误读。认为“一带一路”倡议是中国版“马歇尔计划”,是与西方争霸的“地缘扩张论”“新朝贡体系”等。近两年来,随着中美博弈加剧和“一带一路”亮点效应逐渐显现,出现了所谓的“经济殖民主义”“经济掠夺论”“环境破坏论”“口罩疫苗外交”等负面言论,特别是随着共建“一带一路”在基础设施互联互通标志性工程示范效应的出现,自 2017年开始,有关“债务陷阱”的论调甚嚣尘上,并随着国际经济形势的变化持续成为国际舆情的焦点,成为当前和今后一段时期的最大舆情风险。

The United States and the West have stepped up their efforts to fund systematic negative public opinion propaganda against the BRI, and have been waging public opinion wars in an organized manner. The Strategic Competition Act of 2021 4 passed by the U.S. Senate explicitly requires the United States to intensify public opinion warfare against China, specifically smearing the BRI as a means for China to “expand its influence.” It authorizes the U.S. government to allocate U.S. $300 million annually in FY2022-2026 as a “Countering Chinese Influence Fund,” and requires the Secretary of State to appoint an official at the Assistant Secretary of State level or above to be in charge of policy guidance, coordination, use of funds, and other overall work. The U.S. Agency for International Development is slated to use these funds to support and train “journalists,” enabling them to launch so-called “public accountability investigations” into BRI-related projects. The U.S. government also funds foundations and NGOs that use their transnational networks to control the production and dissemination of information. In addition, the United States and the West have focused on subtly changing the consensus of the international community by escalating “cognitive warfare” from traditional media to the internet, and dwarfing, vilifying, and demonizing China’s image.

美西方加大力度资助对共建“一带一路”的系统性负面舆论宣传,有组织地发动舆论战。美国参议院通过的《2021年战略竞争法案》明确要求美国加大对华舆论战力度,专门将“一带一路”倡议抹黑成中国“扩大影响力”的手段,授权美国政府于 2022—2026财年每年拨款3亿美元,作为“对抗中国影响力基金”,并要求国务卿任命一位助理国务卿级别以上官员负责政策指导、协调与经费动用等统筹工作。美国国际开发署(USAID)被安排利用这些资金支持并训练“记者”,让他们对“一带一路”相关项目发起所谓“公共责任调查”。美国政府还出资支持一些基金会、非政府组织等利用其跨国网络控制信息的产生和传播。此外,美西方注重潜移默化改变国际社会共识,从传统媒体上升到网络的 “认知战”,矮化、丑化和妖魔化中国形象。

The cognitive errors such as misinterpretation and smearing generated by the United States and the West against China’s promotion of the BRI have profoundly influenced, moderated, and even controlled the views of some of the partner countries along the Belt and Road. In some cases, they have directly led to diplomatic changes, political interventions, strategic hedging, and other willful counterbalancing behaviors on the part of some partner countries. Therefore, as the U.S.-China game intensifies, the international public opinion risks for the BRI will continue to increase.

美西方对中国推进“一带一路”建设产生的误读、曲解、抹黑等认知谬误,深刻影响、调节甚至控制了部分共建国家对“一带一路”的看法,有些直接引致部分共建国家的外交转变、政治干预、战略对冲等意志抗衡行为。因此,随着中美博弈加剧,共建 “一带一路”国际舆情风险也将不断增加。

(v) Domestic risks


In addition to the increasingly complex international environment facing the BRI, China’s own shortcomings and unsound institutions and mechanisms in the BRI promotion process have also become risk factors that demand attention for high-quality BRI construction.


First, the connotations, positioning, and goals of the BRI are still not very clear. At present, some of the landmark BRI projects have been successful and have produced demonstration effects. However, international and domestic perceptions of the BRI itself are still vague, and there is no broad domestic or international consensus on what exactly the BRI is. Many foreign countries believe that the BRI seems to be all-encompassing, while many believe that it is the original economic and trade cooperation dressed up in BRI clothing, and that there is no clue as to how to participate, or regularized institutions to contact in order to participate. The same is true domestically. Although the National Development and Reform Commission has set up the Office of the Leading Group on Promoting the Implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative, owing to a lack of clear boundaries and scope, much of the work done by localities and other departments remains superficial, focused on the immediate future rather than the long term, emphasizing propaganda rather than in-depth cultivation, attaching more importance to “hard connectivity,” and to a certain extent neglecting “soft connectivity.” 5 This makes it difficult to produce systematic results, and will have a negative impact on the sustainable development of the BRI.

一是“一带一路”的内涵、定位和目标仍不甚清晰。当前“一带一路”的一些标志性工程获得成功,也产生了示范效应。但国际国内对于“一带一路”本身的认知仍是模糊的,对于到底什么是“一带一路”并没有达成广泛的国内共识和国际共识。国外不少观点认为“一带一路”好像包罗万象,不少则认为是原有的经贸合作披上了“一带一路”的外衣,对于如何参与、与什么机构联系参与,没有头绪和常态化的机构。国内也是如此,尽管国家发改委设有“一带一路”建设领导小组办公室,但由于没有清晰的边界和范围,地方和其他部门的很多工作流于表面,重眼前而非长远,重宣传而非深耕,较为重视“硬联通”,而在一定程度上忽视了 “软联通”,难以产生系统性效果,也会对“一带一路”的可持续发展带来负面影响。

Second, weak protection for Chinese enterprises “going global” coexists with lax supervision mechanisms. On the one hand, promotion of BRI construction has increased the speed at which China’s capital, technology, and personnel are “going global,” while the ability to provide security protection and diplomatic assurance for overseas interests has failed to keep up. It is clear that interests are “going global” faster than the ability to protect interests is being increased, which brings certain risks and leads to changes in the cost-benefit structures of some projects. On the other hand, at present, the state does not strictly supervise the overseas behavior of enterprises, and lacks effective supervision of the competition mechanisms of enterprises. In the infrastructure areas that the BRI has focused on, cutthroat competition among Chinese enterprises is common, which makes Chinese enterprises investing in countries along the BRI not only face competition from local enterprises and outstanding overseas enterprises, but also face competition from Chinese enterprises in the same industry or sector. At the same time, disorderly competition among industries will lead to disconnects between upstream and downstream production chains and loss of competitive advantages, which will affect local people’s impression of China’s enterprises and even the country as a whole.


Third, the internationalization ability of Chinese enterprises is insufficient. With the promotion of BRI construction, Chinese enterprises have been “going global” at an increasingly strong pace. From carrying out engineering projects, to greenfield investment and cross-border mergers and acquisitions, they have achieved fruitful results in many areas. However, the process of participating in BRI construction is still full of risks and challenges for Chinese enterprises: (1) They have insufficient voice in the internationalization of rules and standards. BRI partner countries have large differences in terms of laws, customs, and other aspects of society and culture, and large differences remain in the internationalization of standards and rules, so it is easy for disputes to arise. There is thus an urgent need to establish a system of rules and standards that are compatible and integrated with those of China, and to promote China’s standards and norms for “going global.” (2) Specialized service and dispute resolution mechanisms are insufficient. Existing international arbitration and dispute resolution mechanisms are complex and cumbersome procedures, the cost is expensive, and the fees of foreign arbitrators and lawyers are all very high. As these constitute a relatively heavy economic burden for Chinese enterprises, they have no choice but to give up on obtaining relief. Chinese enterprises basically “lose nine out of ten cases” in overseas litigation and arbitration. (3) The ability of Chinese enterprises to engage in localized operations overseas is inadequate. Those “Going global” for the BRI need to do it in greater depth and not “hop from one place to another.” They need to integrate into the local business environment, adapt to the local culture, and achieve localized management. This is the ultimate form of internationalization, and it is conducive to consolidating the public opinion and social foundation of the BRI in local communities and creating a favorable environment. (4) There is a serious shortage of internationalized talents. This is seen most prominently in the scarcity of high-end talents (professional managers) with international vision and skills who can adapt to the global labor market. Industrial workers (skilled workers) who are mature and can adapt to the international labor market are also in short supply. Moreover, there is a large gap between the current domestic approach to talent training and the demand for BRI talents. How to fill this gap, so that the talents we cultivate are better suited to the needs of the BRI’s sustainable development and become internationalized interdisciplinary talents competent for the work of the initiative, is an urgent problem to be solved at present.

三是中国企业国际化能力不足。随着“一带一路”建设的推进,中国企业“走出去”的步伐越来越强劲,从开展工程项目建设,到进行绿地投资、跨国并购,在多个方面取得了丰硕成果。然而,中国企业在参与“一带一路”建设的过程中仍充满风险与挑战:第一,国际化规则标准话语权能力不足。“一带一路”共建国家法律、人文、习俗等差异较大,在标准国际化、规则国际化等方面仍存在较大差异,容易引起争端,迫切需要建立与中国相衔接、相融通的规则、标准体系,推动中国标准规范“走出去”。第二,专业化的服务机制和纠纷解决机制不足。现有国际仲裁和争端解决机制程序复杂烦琐,费用高昂,外籍仲裁员及律师收费都非常高,对中国企业构成较大的经济负担,只能放弃救济。中国企业在境外诉讼仲裁基本上“十案九败”。第三,中国企业海外本土化经营能力不足。 “一带一路”“走出去”需要更加深入,不能“打一枪换一个地方”,需融入当地营商环境,适应当地文化,实现属地化管理,这是国际化的终极形态,有利于夯实“一带一路”在当地的民意基础和社会基础,营造良好环境。第四,国际化人才严重短缺。突出表现在具有国际化视野、国际化技能、能够适应国际化劳动市场的高端人才(专业化的管理人员)稀缺,成熟且能适应国际用工市场的产业工人(技术工人)也较为紧缺。而目前国内的人才培养模式与“一带一路”人才需求之间存在较大的落差。如何弥补这种落差,使我们培养的人才更适应“一带一路”可持续发展的需要,成为胜任“一带一路”工作的国际化复合型人才,是当下亟须解决的问题。

Fourth, the impacts of the epidemic and its control measures. The COVID-19 epidemic has had a huge impact on the orderly development of global economic, trade, and investment activities, and the related preventive and control measures have restricted the flow of business, logistics, and people. The rotation of managers, technicians, and workers has been interrupted in major projects of the Belt and Road Initiative, production chains and supply chains of some projects have been interrupted, some development and construction projects have been postponed or even canceled, and the costs of overseas projects and overseas travel have increased greatly. As a result of the epidemic, the global production and supply chains have been blocked, the international economic environment has become more complicated, and the ability and willingness of some countries to cooperate with the outside world have been greatly reduced.

四是疫情及防控措施的冲击影响。新冠疫情对全球经贸投资活动的有序开展产生了巨大冲击,相关防控措施限制了商流、物流、人流等的流动, “一带一路”重大项目普遍出现管理人员、技术人员、工人等的轮换中断,部分项目出现产业链供应链中断的现象,一些开发建设项目被推迟甚至取消,海外项目、境外差旅等成本费用支出大大提高。疫情致使全球产业链供应链循环受阻,国际经济环境更趋复杂,部分国家对外合作能力和意愿大幅下降。

IV. Policy Recommendations for Promoting the BRI’s High-quality Development


In the face of various risks and challenges in the new situation, we should continue to unswervingly promote the high-quality development of the BRI, prevent, diffuse, and hedge the relevant risks, and promote the steady and long-term development of the BRI.


(i) Continue to unswervingly promote the high-quality development of the BRI, and join hands to promote the building of a community of common destiny for mankind.


We should fully understand the unique strategic value of the BRI: The BRI is an international cooperation platform for China to take the strategic initiative against the backdrop of economic globalization and the accelerated evolution of regional economic integration. The United States and the West continue to put forward initiatives or plans that compete with the BRI, but from another perspective this proves that this policy decision was entirely correct. We should continue to unswervingly promote the high-quality development of the BRI, put into practice the principles of extensive consultation, joint contribution, and shared benefits, the concepts of openness, greenness, and integrity, and the goals of achieving high standards, benefiting people’s livelihoods, and achieving sustainability, so that the fruits of BRI cooperation will benefit all of the cooperating parties.


With the goal of building a community of common destiny for mankind, the BRI provides an inclusive economic and trade cooperation platform for countries. It is a coordinated approach to the sustainable development of the world economy based on sustainable development goals and applying higher standards, and has become a popular international public good and international cooperation platform. At a time when the deficit in global governance is becoming more and more conspicuous, in the context of epochal changes, the epidemic of the century, and the Russia-Ukraine conflict, we should seize the opportunity for greater diversification of the providers of global public goods. Under the Global Development Initiative, we should actively promote the multilateralization, internationalization, and institutionalization of the BRI, take the initiative to link-up with the goals and work of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and promote the BRI’s transformation into the resolutions, standards, rules, and motions of international organizations, so that the BRI truly becomes a global public good, and China’s proposals are provided for improving the global governance system.


(ii) Establish sound risk prevention mechanisms


The BRI involves a large number of countries and regions, and the risks and challenges are very complicated, so it is necessary to establish governance and prevention mechanisms to deal with those risks.


First, it is important to recognize the objectivity and long-term nature of the risk challenges. We should soberly recognize that strategic competition with the BRI on the part of the United States and the West will exist for a long time. The doubts and accusations of certain Western countries regarding the BRI have never ceased, and it would be difficult to dispel the worries and concerns of China’s neighboring powers, and some developing countries still have wrong perceptions about the BRI, so risks in the BRI promotion process are inevitable. High-quality BRI construction is a long-term and systematic project requiring dynamic, timely, and effective responses to the various risks and challenges in practice, so as to continuously build consensus on cooperation and achieve healthy, long-term, and sustainable development.

一是清醒认识风险挑战的客观性和长期性。应清醒地认识到,美西方对共建“一带一路”倡议的战略竞争会长期存在,某些西方国家对“一带一路”的质疑和指责从未间断,周边大国对“一带一路”的担忧和顾虑难以消除,一些发展中国家对 “一带一路”仍存在错误认知,其推进过程中的风险不可避免。高质量共建 “一带一路”是一项长期的系统工程,需要在实践中动态、及时、有效应对面临的各种风险挑战,不断凝聚合作共识,实现健康、长远、可持续发展。

Second, the top-level institutional design of risk governance should be strengthened. BRI projects are widely distributed in specific geographic and spatial areas, and involve bilateral diplomatic, political, economic, and geopolitical interests. They face a deeply uncertain and dynamic external environment, as well as the heterogeneous characteristics of various risk factors, and the complexity of perceptions regarding mechanisms for association and coupling. There is thus an urgent need to establish an organization for the top-level overall coordination of risk governance. We recommend that the Office of the Leading Group on Promoting the Implementation of Belt and Road Initiative be further strengthened, and that a risk governance group should be set up separately to explore the establishment of a comprehensive and integrated risk management system to be implemented and enforced by all managing departments.


Third, risk response mechanisms should be established with host countries. With the help of host countries, third parties, and multilateral organizations, and through the allocation of resources for management and governance capacity, we should build multi-layered governance mechanisms for intergovernmental consultation, management-level coordination, and collaboration among participants, and build a multi-layered risk network governance capacity system, including “China-host country” and third-party cooperation layers, to enhance the effectiveness of risk governance mechanisms in an all-round and all-weather manner.


Fourth, the various risks and challenges should be actively addressed. When dealing with political risks and challenges, it is necessary to have a deep understanding of the political situation of the host country, not only to integrate into the cooperation framework of the host country, but also to be compatible with the power of the Russian, U.S., European, Japanese, and other economies in the host country. The division of labor and responsibilities for different types of risks should be explicit, and project investment and economic development should be separated from political conflict and national security, so that BRI construction will not be adversely affected when resolving territorial disputes or disputes over territorial waters. By establishing and perfecting cooperation and investment mechanisms to meet the challenges of economic risks, we should help host countries improve their legal and economic systems, so as to better protect the legitimate rights and interests of project investors.


(iii) Differentiate policy implementation for diffusing risks related to strategic competition-based hedging


Generally speaking, the BRI has gained a more obvious first-mover advantage over the past decade, and most of the relevant plans put forward by the United States and the West are at the initiative stage, with unknown prospects for implementation, and their substantive impact on BRI construction has been limited. Their potential impact is not small, however, and differentiated measures should be taken to prevent these countries from forming a strategically coordinated force against the BRI.

总体看, 近10年来,共建“一带一路”建设已取得较为明显的先发优势,美西方提出的有关计划大多处于倡议阶段,落实前景不明,对“一带一路”建设的实质性影响有限,但潜在影响不小,应进行分类施策,防范这些国家对共建“一带一路”形成战略协调合力。

1. Do a good job in a multi-dimensional way on work regarding the United States

1. 多维度做好美国工作

The United States is the most unstable external factor in BRI construction. Since 2022, the United States has launched the “Indo-Pacific Economic Framework,” and once again joined hands with its G7 allies to launch a global infrastructure plan. It has used the Russia-Ukraine conflict to engage in bloc confrontation, and stirred up rival camp formation. On work relating to the United States, we must do a good job in a multi-dimensional way, using the BRI to form an “entangled” and “nested” situation between China and the United States, and defuse the risks and pressures of BRI construction. First, strengthen China-U.S. infrastructure cooperation. China and the United States have vast room for cooperation in infrastructure, including green infrastructure construction, climate change, and other areas, and exchanges and cooperation can be further strengthened. At the same time, we can take the initiative to propose linking up the BRI and B3W, the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGII), and other initiatives, and carry out third-party market cooperation, thereby creating a favorable external environment for China’s BRI. Second, continue to strengthen cooperation with international friendship cities and mobilize the enthusiasm of U.S. local governments to participate in BRI construction. U.S. local governments can really see the enormous space for infrastructure cooperation and economic and trade cooperation between China and the United States under the BRI, so we can promote the holding of China-U.S. Governors’ Forums alternately in China and the United States every year, so as to alleviate the misperceptions within U.S. society and the public regarding U.S.-China relations and the Belt and Road, and thereby promote “local government encouragement of the federal government.” Third, guide the U.S. business community to participate in BRI construction in a variety of ways, including as third parties. Unlike the U.S. government and some politicians, the U.S. business community has traditions of pragmatism and innovation, with fewer political and ideological taboos. Therefore, we should focus on increasing communication and coordination with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, relevant U.S. enterprises, and other civil forces, and create more convenient “interfaces” for U.S. enterprises to participate in BRI construction, thereby promoting “using economics to encourage politics.” Fourth, strengthen communication and cooperation between Chinese and U.S. think tanks and media to reduce public opinion pressure. Negative views on the BRI in the United States come partly from think tanks and academics. On the basis of strengthening China-U.S. cooperation on the Belt and Road, especially third-party cooperation, we should strengthen exchanges with think tanks and the media, and work together to address concerns and doubts in the course of BRI construction, thereby reducing public opinion pressure on the initiative.

美国是“一带一路”建设推进中最不稳定的外部因素。2022年以来,美启动“印太经济框架”,再次联手G7盟友推出全球基建计划,利用俄乌冲突大搞集团对抗,炒作阵营化。应多维度做好对美相关工作,利用“一带一路”形成中美之间的“缠斗”“嵌套”态势,化解 “一带一路”建设的风险与压力。一是加强中美基础设施合作。中美在基础设施包括绿色基础设施建设、气候变化等领域具有广阔的合作空间,可进一步加强交流合作;同时,可主动提出 “一带一路”倡议与B3W、PIGG等倡议对接,开展第三方市场合作,营造对我“一带一路”有利的外部环境。二是继续加强国际友城合作,调动美国州地参与“一带一路”建设的积极性。美地方政府能实实在在看到“一带一路”框架下中美基建和经贸合作的巨大空间,可推动每年在中美两地轮流举办中美省州长论坛,从地方政府和企业层面出发,缓解美国社会、民众对中美关系和 “一带一路”的错误认知,推动“地方促联邦”。三是引导美国工商界以第三方身份等多种方式参与 “一带一路”建设。与美国政府及一些政客不同,美国工商界有务实、创新的传统,政治和意识形态禁忌少。因此,应注重加大与美国商会、相关美国企业等民间力量的沟通协调,为美国企业参与“一带一路” 建设打造更便利的“接口”,推动“以经促政”。四是加强中美智库和媒体之间的交流合作,消减舆论压力。美对 “一带一路”倡议的负面看法部分来自智库和学界,应在加强中美“一带一路”合作特别是第三方合作的基础上,加强智库和媒体交流,共同回答“一带一路”建设过程中的重大关切与疑虑,消减“一带一路”倡议舆论压力。

2. Strengthen China-EU cooperation under the BRI framework

2. 加强“一带一路”框架下的中欧合作

At present, epoch-making changes, a once-in-a-century pandemic, and the Russia-Ukraine conflict have profoundly affected global political and economic patterns. Europe is facing unprecedented energy and economic crises, a superficial harmony in U.S.-European relations masks deeper estrangement, and the U.S.-China game is intensifying. The EU has become an important variable affecting the course of that game and the direction of trilateral relations. In this regard, we make the following recommendations:


First, urgently push for the EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment to restart and enter the approval process. With two of the world’s largest economies, two large markets, and two great civilizations, China and Europe have strong economic complementarities and huge potential for cooperation. Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 epidemic, China and the EU have overcome difficulties and achieved trade growth despite headwinds, and investment has risen steadily. China has become the EU’s top trading partner, and the EU is China’s second-largest trading partner. The China-Europe Railway Express is the epitome of the deepening economic and trade relations between China and Europe. For the whole of 2021, its trains made 15,183 trips and carried 1,464,000 TEUs of cargo, with year-on-year growth of 22% and 29%, respectively, and the overall loaded container ratio was 98.1%. From January to September 2022, trains on the China-Europe Railway Express made a total of 12,000 trips and sent 1.18 million TEUs of goods, achieving high growth rates of 7% and 8% year-on-year, respectively. Against the backdrop of rising regional tensions and high global inflation, the rapid and stable growth of the China-Europe Railway Express has made irreplaceable contributions to stabilizing global production and supply chains and offsetting the negative impact of inflation. At the same time, China-EU joint development of third-party markets in Africa, Latin America, and other countries has been steadily advancing, helping host countries transform their development models, enhance competitiveness, and narrow the development gap with developed countries. We should seize upon the various dilemmas faced by Europe under the Russia-Ukraine conflict, restart the process of getting the EU-China Comprehensive Agreement entered into force, stabilize and expand China-EU economic and trade relations, and avoid the formation of a strong U.S.-European counterweight to China.

一是抓紧推动中欧投资协定重启进入审批流程。中欧作为世界两大经济体、两大市场和两大文明,经济互补性强、合作潜力巨大。新冠疫情暴发以来,中欧双方克服困难,实现了贸易逆势增长,投资稳中有升,中国成为欧盟第一大贸易伙伴,欧盟是中国第二大贸易伙伴。中欧班列是中欧经贸关系不断深化的缩影,2021年全年,中欧班列共开行 15183列,运送146.4万标箱,同比分别增长22%、29%,综合重箱率98.1%。2022年1—9月,中欧班列累计开行1.2万列、发送货物118万标箱,同比分别实现了7%、8%的高增速。在地区紧张局势持续升温、全球通胀高企的背景下,中欧班列实现快速稳定增长,对稳定全球产业链供应链、冲抵通胀负面影响,作出了不可替代的贡献。同时,中欧共同开发非洲、拉美等第三方市场稳步推进,帮助东道国实现发展模式转型,提升竞争力,缩小与发达国家的发展差距。应抓住俄乌冲突下欧洲面临的各种困境,重启中欧投资协定生效流程,稳住并扩大中欧经贸关系,避免美欧形成抗衡中国的强大合力。

Second, actively promote effective linkage with the relevant infrastructure cooperation initiatives proposed by the EU. We must be highly alert to linkage and cooperation between the U.S.-led B3W and PGII with the European “Global Gateway” program. The EU’s “Global Gateway” program is highly complementary to China’s BRI, and there is already a certain foundation for China-Germany, China-France, and China-Italy cooperation, and third-party market cooperation under the BRI framework. We should promote the linking of the BRI and the EU’s “Global Gateway” program, tighten the ties of interest between China and the EU, promote cooperation in key areas such as infrastructure, finance, energy, and S&T innovation, and consolidate the results of cooperation in third-party markets, so as to form a pattern of joint construction in which benefits and risks are shared, and prevent the United States and Europe from forming a counterweight to the Belt and Road.

二是积极推动欧盟提出的有关基础设施合作倡议的有效对接。要高度警惕美国主导的B3W、PGII与欧洲“全球门户”计划对接合作。欧盟“全球门户”计划与中国“一带一路”倡议互补性较强,且 “一带一路”框架下中德、中法、中意合作和第三方市场合作已有一定基础,应推动“一带一路”与欧盟“全球门户”计划的对接,拉紧中欧利益纽带,推动基础设施、金融、能源、科技创新等重点领域合作,巩固第三方市场合作成果,形成利益共享、风险共担的共建格局,避免美欧形成抗衡“一带一路”的合力。

3. Deepen China-Russia cooperation under the BRI framework

3. 深化“一带一路”框架下的中俄合作

Against the background of the Russia-Ukraine conflict and the U.S.-European sanctions against Russia, China and Russia have enhanced their strategic mutual trust, and the trading of energy, agricultural products, and other resource products in exchange for daily consumer goods and means of production will become the main form of trade between China and Russia. Efforts should be stepped up to carry out connectivity-based infrastructure construction, open up land logistics and trade corridors in Xinjiang in western China, Inner Mongolia and Heilongjiang in the north, and other cooperative economic corridors, and dig deeper into the potential for China-Russia BRI cooperation. We should jointly promote the substantive linking of the BRI and the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union, promote the construction of a China-Russia Polar Silk Road, and jointly develop the Arctic route passage, so that China and Russia form a more closely linked production chain cooperation network. At the same time, we should take advantage of the U.S. financial sanctions against Russia to expand China-Russia cooperation in the financial sector, increase RMB settlement efforts, strengthen the interconnection of the RMB Cross-Border Interbank Payment System (CIPS) and the Central Bank of Russia’s SPFS financial messaging system, and expand the digitalized application of the RMB, so as to provide stable and reliable cross-border settlement channels for China-Russia trade and promote the internationalization of the RMB at the same time.

在俄乌冲突及美欧对俄制裁背景下,中俄战略互信加强,俄用能源、农产品等资源性产品换取日用消费品、生产资料等,将成为中俄贸易的主要形式。应加大力度开展互联互通基础设施建设,打通中国西部新疆,北部内蒙古、黑龙江等合作经济走廊陆路物流和贸易通道的堵点,深挖中俄共建 “一带一路”合作潜力。共同推动“一带一路”与俄罗斯主导的欧亚经济联盟的实质性对接,推动中俄冰上丝绸之路建设,共同开发北极航线通道,使中俄形成更紧密相连的产业链合作网络。同时,利用美对俄金融制裁契机,扩大中俄金融领域合作,加大人民币结算力度,加强人民币跨境支付系统(CIPS)、俄罗斯央行金融信息传输系统(SPFS)互联互通,拓展人民币数字化应用场景,为中俄贸易提供稳定、可靠的跨境结算通道的同时,推动人民币国际化进程。

(iv) Consolidate the fundamentals of the BRI construction with China’s neighboring areas as the foundation


Japan, India, and other neighboring countries are followers and participants of the U.S.-European “Indo-Pacific Strategy,” and Southeast Asia, Central Asia, West Asia, and other central regions of the BRI are the focal points of games between major powers. In order to better cope with the U.S.-Western strategic squeeze on the BRI and avoid political and security-related risks, we should establish and consolidate the BRI framework’s cooperation network with China’s neighboring areas as the foundation.


First, we should consolidate and deepen China-ASEAN cooperation in various fields. Under the BRI framework, China and ASEAN have formed closer production and supply chains, with China-ASEAN trade reaching a record U.S. $878.2 billion in 2021, accounting for 14.5 percent of China’s total foreign trade. From January to July 2022, China-ASEAN trade totaled U.S. $544.9 billion, up 13.1% year-on-year. China has remained ASEAN’s largest trading partner for 13 consecutive years. The promotional effect of the RCEP’s entry into force and implementation on economic and trade cooperation has begun to show, becoming the biggest bright spot in the current world economic growth picture and the chief means of leveraging regional economic growth potential. At the same time, the United States has launched the “Indo-Pacific Economic Framework,” seizing on deployments in the ASEAN region to counterbalance China and the BRI. Therefore, guided by the China-ASEAN Strategic Partnership Vision 2030, we should construct a China-ASEAN FTA with high standards, deepen bilateral cooperation on infrastructure, especially in digital, green, and other areas, as well as trade and investment. We should focus on expanding market opening in the service sector, improving trade and investment facilitation, and raising the degree of integration and competitiveness of bilateral production chains, supply chains, value chains, and innovation chains. We should strengthen the linkage between the BRI and the RCEP, and continuously enlarge the favorable conditions for regional opening up, thereby making positive contributions to the economic recovery, growth, development, and prosperity of member countries.

一是巩固并深化中国—东盟各领域的合作。 “一带一路”框架下,中国与东盟形成了更加紧密的产业链和供应链,2021年中国—东盟贸易额再创历史新高,达到8782亿美元,占中国对外贸易总额的14.5%。2022年1—7月,中国—东盟贸易额达到 5449亿美元,同比增长13.1%。中国连续13年保持东盟最大贸易伙伴。RCEP生效实施对经贸合作的促进作用已经开始显现,成为当前世界经济增长的最大亮点和区域经济增长潜力的最大抓手。同时,美启动“印太经济框架”,抓紧在东盟地区布局以抗衡中国和“一带一路”建设。因此,应在《中国—东盟战略伙伴关系2030年愿景》指导下,高标准建设中国—东盟自贸区,深化双边基础设施尤其是数字、绿色等领域和贸易投资领域的合作,重点扩大服务业市场开放,提升贸易投资便利化水平,提高双边产业链、供应链、价值链、创新链的融合度和竞争力。加强“一带一路”与RCEP对接,不断扩大区域开放的有利条件,为成员国经济复苏增长和发展繁荣作出积极贡献。

Secondly, China-Japan cooperation under the BRI framework should be strengthened. Japan is an ally of the United States, but the economic ties between China and Japan are difficult to sever. China-Japan economic and trade cooperation should be deepened in order to better cope with the U.S. strategic squeeze on the BRI. After the RCEP came into force, China and Japan established a free trade relationship for the first time, and this is certain to promote the deepening of economic and trade cooperation between China and Japan. Previously, Japan has also demonstrated enthusiasm for carrying out China-Japan cooperation in third-party markets under the BRI framework. China is in the process of contacting, communicating with, and consulting with members of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) in accordance with CPTPP accession procedures, and it can strengthen linkage and cooperation between the BRI and the Japan-led CPTPP, thereby forming of a relatively stable China-Japan relationship, “using economics to encourage politics.” At the same time, under the RCEP+CPTPP framework, the importance of the China-Japan economic and trade relationship will be further highlighted. This is not merely about reciprocal reductions of import tariffs on commodities, but is more about forming a pattern of cooperation that is mutually promoting and synergistic, centered around different aspects of manufacturing production chains, such as trade in goods, trade in services, investment, and technology research and development. We should actively promote progress toward a China-Japan-South Korea FTA, and form a benign, interest-driven BRI economic and trade cooperation relationship in which Japan and South Korea participate autonomously and actively, to avoid a situation emerging where Japan and South Korea have turned entirely to the United States.

二是加强“一带一路”框架下的中日合作。日本是美国盟友,但中日经济纽带关系难以割裂,为更好应对美对“一带一路”的战略挤压,应深化中日经贸合作。RCEP生效后,中日首次建立了自贸关系,必将推动中日经贸合作加深。此前,日本也表现出在“一带一路”框架下开展中日第三方市场合作的积极性。中国正按照CPTPP加入程序,与各成员进行接触、沟通和磋商,可加强“一带一路”与日本主导的CPTPP的对接合作,形成相对稳定的中日关系,“以经促政”。同时,RCEP+CPTPP框架下,中日经贸关系重要性将进一步凸显,不仅仅是商品进口关税的互惠下调,更多是围绕商品贸易、服务贸易、投资、技术研发等制造业产业链的各方面,形成相互促进、相互协同的合作格局。应积极推进中日韩自贸区进程,形成利益驱动下日本、韩国自主积极参与 “一带一路”经贸合作良性关系,避免出现日韩全面倒向美国的局面。

Third, properly deal with the China-India relationship and the China-India-Pakistan triangular relationship. India is a large country in South Asia, and although it has put forward a cooperation initiative to compete with the BRI, almost no progress has been made. Its impact on BRI construction has been negligible, but its infrastructure cooperation with the United States in the South Asian region has produced a “crowding out” effect on China. In the context of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Russia-India relations have led to adjustments and changes in the U.S.-India and China-India relationships, which should be seized on as a favorable opportunity for “holding onto” India economically and properly handling China-India border and territorial disputes. At the same time, China should properly handle the triangular relationship between China, India, and Pakistan, act as a mediator in handling the India-Pakistan relationship, and advocate and strengthen cooperation and dispute settlement among the three countries under multilateral frameworks such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. While maintaining balance in policies towards India and India’s neighbors, we should deepen the process of China’s integration with all of South Asia, starting with construction of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor, and the China-Nepal Trans-Himalayan Connectivity Network, and thereby promote the joint construction of a “community of common development” and a “community of common destiny” between China and the South Asian region.


Fourth, deepen economic and trade cooperation with Central and West Asia. Central and West Asia share land borders with China and also include important countries along the Belt and Road. Since the BRI was proposed, the countries of Central Asia and West Asia have carried out cooperation in the fields of railways, highways, aviation, energy, electricity, information, and other infrastructure in the context of constructing the China–Central Asia–West Asia Economic Corridor. The trade volume between China and the five Central Asian countries increased 100-fold from U.S. $460 million in 1992 to U.S. $46.34 billion in 2019. The China-Kazakhstan crude oil pipeline, the China-Central Asia natural gas pipeline, and the China-Russia natural gas pipeline have assured the security and development of supplier, transit, and consumer countries, becoming “resource arteries” of the Eurasian continent. In the context of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, we should take full advantage of the favorable opportunity of enhanced strategic mutual trust between China and Russia and weakening Russian control over the Central Asian region to expand China’s economic and trade cooperation with Central Asia and West Asia, and open up the blockages in the international logistics corridors connecting Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia to Central Asia, West Asia, Russia, and even Europe. We should build a major trade and investment channel, with Xinjiang as the core and facing Russia, Central Asia, West Asia, etc., and gradually build a transnational regional cooperation pattern and production chain and supply chain system, with China-Russia as the main axis and links with the Eurasian Economic Union as the main lines, thereby expanding China’s strategic room to maneuver in the China-U.S. game.


Fifth, expand cooperation with Africa and Latin America. Many of the numerous developing countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America participating in BRI cooperation have good foundations of cooperation with China. At present, the political environment in Latin America is undergoing significant changes, and some countries are highly dissatisfied with the United States. We should seize the opportunity to go deeper into the U.S. “backyard” to carry out relevant cooperation, and be more proactive in expanding cooperation with these countries under the BRI cooperation framework. However, we cannot have it become China “taking care of everything,” nor permit all kinds of misperceptions, misunderstandings, and misinterpretations to interfere with BRI cooperation. We should amplify our interpretation and propaganda efforts regarding the principles of extensive consultation, joint contribution, and shared benefits, as well as the BRI’s theoretical connotations and vision, and make great efforts to build a discourse system that is favorable to us.


(v) Comprehensively strengthen the institutionalization of the BRI


Institutionalization is an inevitable requirement for the BRI goals of high standards, benefiting people’s livelihoods, and sustainability. We should insist on being problem-oriented and practice-oriented, that is, promoting mechanism construction by solving problems that arise in practice, and promote the gradual transformation of BRI construction, from project-oriented to rule-oriented, so as to provide solid support for high-quality BRI cooperation.


First, explore and promote the institutionalized and substantive development of the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation. Drawing on the mature experiences and practices of relevant international forums, we should explore the establishment of an organizational structure with a standing secretariat, gradually improve the relevant decision-making, coordination, and implementation mechanisms, peripheral mechanisms, and other key functions, and promote the development of the organization into a substantive entity with full-time personnel and specialized departments, so it can better play its important support and leadership roles in BRI construction.


Second, strengthen institution-building for the development of infrastructure and production capacity cooperation projects. The construction of major projects such as those for infrastructure and production capacity cooperation is a BRI strength. We should: Further strengthen project selection and investigation and risk assessment mechanisms, improve the information reserve database of key projects for BRI construction, establish a comprehensive service platform for all-weather early warning and assessment of overseas project risks, and carry out comprehensive, full-process dynamic tracking, monitoring, and early warning, as well as regular project assessments; improve and perfect the system for legal and compliant operation of projects, standardize the investment behavior of enterprises, and encourage enterprises to pay attention to environmental protection, fulfill social responsibilities such as poverty reduction, and actively respond to local social demands when carrying out project construction, thereby achieving win-win outcomes for all parties in project construction.


Third, improve and refine mechanisms for assuring debt sustainability. In the face of the so-called “debt trap theory” and “creditor diplomacy theory” of Western countries led by the United States, the construction of debt sustainability assurance mechanisms is particularly important and urgent. The Debt Sustainability Framework should be further implemented to improve the scientific basis of investment and financing decision-making and strengthen debt management capacity. We should encourage multilateral development agencies to carry out joint financing with countries along the Belt and Road, organically combine RMB overseas investment with promotion of the sovereign debt security of countries along the Belt and Road, and give full play to the lending functions, especially the syndicated lending function, of banks in China and host countries, so as to achieve joint investment of resources and sharing of risk. Give full play to the direct financing role of the bond and stock markets, and support the governments, enterprises with high credit ratings, and financial institutions of the countries along the BRI in issuing RMB bonds in China. Encourage qualified financial institutions and enterprises in China to issue RMB bonds and foreign-currency bonds outside China, and use the funds raised in the countries along the routes.

三是健全完善债务可持续性保障机制。面对以美国为首的西方国家所谓 “债务陷阱论”“债权外交论”等质疑,债务可持续性保障机制建设显得尤为重要和紧迫。应进一步落实好《“一带一路”债务可持续性分析框架》,提高投融资决策科学性,加强债务管理能力。鼓励多边开发机构与沿线国家开展联合融资,将人民币海外投资与推动“一带一路”沿线国家主权债务安全有机结合,发挥中国境内银行和所在国银行的贷款尤其是银团贷款功能,实现资源联合投入、风险共担。发挥债券、股票市场直接融资作用,支持沿线国家政府和信用等级较高的企业以及金融机构在中国境内发行人民币债券。鼓励符合条件的中国境内金融机构和企业在境外发行人民币债券和外币债券,在沿线国家使用所筹资金。

Fourth, improve investment and financing mechanisms for risk sharing and benefit sharing. We should integrate international and domestic resources, government and social capital, and direct and indirect financing to create financing mechanisms that are mutually beneficial, diversified, and balanced, with sharing of risks and benefits. We should fully implement the Guiding Principles on Financing the Development of the Belt and Road, continue to give full play to the roles of Belt and Road Special Lending, the Silk Road Fund, and various types of special investment funds, support the effective operation of the Multilateral Development Finance Cooperation Center, and provide guidance and encouragement to multilateral and national financial institutions to participate in joint BRI construction. We should innovate investment and financing models, promote equity investment and PPP project financing, give full play to the driving role of public funds, mobilize long-term capital and capital from the enterprise sector, implement differentiated policies for projects of different natures, and establish and improve a financing guarantee system with differentiated focuses. At the same time, we should steadily promote the internationalization of the RMB and increase RMB investment, so as to diffuse related financing and exchange rate risks.


Fifth, actively build dispute settlement mechanisms. Further implement and promote the Opinions on the Establishment of the BRI International Commercial Dispute Resolution Mechanism and Institutions, and on the basis of the existing WTO dispute settlement mechanism and ICSID investment dispute settlement mechanism, flexibly utilize a variety of means, and actively build international commercial dispute settlement mechanisms and institutions that are in line with the national characteristics of the countries along the BRI and widely accepted. Deepen international judicial exchanges and cooperation, establish as soon as possible a database of laws of BRI partner countries and a foreign law ascertainment center, and implement the dispute settlement model of “promoting regulation through development” or “both development and regulation,” in order to gradually form a perfected dispute settlement system, and create a stable, fair, transparent, and predictable business environment under the rule of law.


Sixth, strengthen mechanisms for safeguarding overseas interests and security. We should further improve the “three-in-one” security mechanism of risk assessment, monitoring, and early-warning and emergency response, and establish an efficient, unified, and coordinated monitoring platform and early-warning system for overall risk, country risk, and project risk in BRI construction. We should also establish a scientific project risk assessment system and methods for the different situations of BRI partner countries. At the same time, we should strengthen top-level design, perfect the nation’s institutional, policy, and legal systems for the security of overseas interests, accelerate the negotiation of investment agreements with countries along the Belt and Road, improve the insurance system for overseas investment, encourage relevant training, and strengthen the legal compliance of the foreign operations of enterprises. By strengthening mechanisms for safeguarding overseas interests and security, we will push BRI projects to take root locally and develop sustainably, and encourage enterprises and personnel to “go global” in a safer and more secure manner.


Seventh, accelerate the building of a BRI rules and standards system. In the final analysis, international economic competition is a competition of rules and standards, and dominance in rules and standards means having the upper hand in development. We should summarize and draw lessons from the whole-production-chain project management methods that China has formed during the construction of major engineering projects, form a unified and standardized whole-production-chain rules and standards system, and replicate and promote it in the partner countries along with the construction of infrastructure projects, so as to further consolidate the first-mover advantage gained from major BRI infrastructure projects. Relying on the construction of overseas economic and trade cooperation zones, we should extend China’s experience in the construction, operation, and management of such zones to partner countries in the form of rules. We should vigorously promote the construction of the Digital Silk Road and Green Silk Road, break down barriers to green development and digital trade development, and make every effort to build a green standards system and a digital rules system for the BRI under China’s leadership. We should also vigorously promote the construction of a global network of high-standard BRI free trade zones, and make full use of international organizations and platforms to participate in building international rules and standards systems.

七是加快构建“一带一路”规则标准体系。国际经济竞争归根究底是规则和标准的竞争,规则和标准的支配权意味着发展的主动权。总结我国在重大工程项目建设过程中已形成的全产业链工程管理方式,形成统一规范的全产业链规则标准体系,并随着基建项目建设向共建国家复制推广,进一步巩固“一带一路”重大基建项目取得的先发优势。依托境外经贸合作区建设,将中国园区建设、运营、管理的经验以规则形式向共建国家推广。大力推动数字丝绸之路、绿色丝绸之路建设,破除绿色发展和数字贸易发展壁垒,全力构建以我为主的 “一带一路”绿色标准体系和数字规则体系。同时,大力推动构建面向全球的高标准“一带一路”自由贸易区网络,充分利用国际组织和平台参与国际规则标准体系建设。

(vi) Build a BRI discourse system


At present, BRI construction is facing a serious discourse dilemma. We should bolster the discourse power [话语权] of BRI countries by strengthening construction of the discourse system. This is particularly urgent for promoting high-quality BRI development.


First, accelerate construction of the BRI theory system. We should strengthen BRI theoretical research, and build a great historical view of the community of common destiny for mankind within China’s narrative system from a theoretical standpoint. Under the new international situation at present, Western countries led by the United States are engaged in bloc politics, trade protectionism, populism, and anti-globalization, and the uncertainty of international cooperation has increased dramatically. Chairman Xi Jinping has repeatedly issued unity and cooperation initiatives with the leaders of BRI partner countries. We should fully utilize the positive role of international discourse arenas such as the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, the CPC in Dialogue with World Political Parties High-level Meeting, and the G20 Summit, as well as BRI multicultural arenas, and on the basis of “extensive consultation, joint contribution, and shared benefits,” place more emphasis on values such as “solidarity and cooperation” and the “community of common destiny for mankind,” so as to continuously enhance the guiding power of international public opinion on the Belt and Road.

一是加快构建“一带一路”理论体系。应加强 “一带一路”理论研究,从理论上构建中国叙事体系的人类命运共同体大历史观。在当前国际局势新形势下,以美为首的西方国家大搞集团政治、贸易保护主义、民粹主义、逆全球化等做法,国际合作的不确定性大幅增加。习近平主席多次与“一带一路” 共建国家领导人发出团结合作倡议。应充分发挥“一带一路”国际高峰论坛、世界政党对话会、 G20峰会等国际话语场域和“一带一路”多元文化场域的积极作用,在“共商共建共享”基础上,更加强调“团结合作”“人类命运共同体”等价值理念,不断提升“一带一路”国际舆论引导力。

Second, build a diversified set of discourse entities. The discourse on the BRI is a shared discourse based on the shared interests of partner countries. The main entity in the discourse narrative should be changed from “I” to “we.” It is necessary not only to encourage the governmental entities of both sides to speak out for the BRI in official occasions such as diplomacy and the international arena, but also to give full play to the unique advantages of non-governmental entities of both sides in processes such as carrying out economic and trade activities, think-tank exchanges, media communication, and folk culture and tourism exchanges, and we should actively guide the mass media, academic organizations, and social and civil society organizations to carry out thematic planning and actively express their views on key issues related to the BRI. On the basis of making good use of experts, scholars, and the media, we should give greater prominence to the roles of overseas enterprises and representative projects, giving full play to the roles of overseas enterprises and major landmark projects, especially the “small and beautiful” livelihood projects, in information dissemination and image presentation, so that they can become vivid cases that can “talk” and “tell their stories.”

二是构建多元化话语主体。“一带一路”话语是共建国家基于共同利益的共同话语。应推动话语叙述主体由“我”变为“我们”,既要推动双方政府主体在外交和国际场域等官方场合为“一带一路”发声,也要发挥双方非政府主体在经贸活动开展、智库交流、媒体传播、民间文旅交流等过程中的独特优势,积极引导大众媒体、学术组织、社会民间组织在“一带一路”倡议相关重点议题上进行主题策划、积极表达。在用好专家学者和媒体的基础上, 更加突出驻外企业和代表性项目的作用,充分发挥驻外企业和重大标志性工程的信息传播和形象展示作用,特别是“小而美”的民生项目,让它们成为会“说话”、会“讲故事”的生动案例。

Third, improve the content of discourse. We should improve our topic-setting ability, downplay confrontation, and choose speech that is as moderate and neutral as possible, based on the perspective of the community of common destiny for mankind, so as to increase empathy and sympathy. The content of discourse should be improved according to international narrative conventions, and discourse content characterized by policy declarations and grand narratives should be changed to content characterized by innovative and micro narratives. The rich historical and contemporary stories of economic and trade cooperation and cultural exchanges between China and the partner countries can be transformed into concrete stories, and their rich connotations can be elaborated through TV dramas, movies, documentaries, micro movies, songs, and other easy-to-understand and popular ways, so as to enhance the appeal and attractiveness of the Belt and Road. In addition, on the basis of good positive communication, more attention should be paid to responding to negative public opinion.


Fourth, continuously expand discourse channels. On the basis of doing a good job on traditional media, more attention should be paid to the construction and maintenance of social platforms and other new internet-based positions. Whereas the international public opinion field of traditional media has long been dominated by the United States and Western countries, the current rapid development of social platforms provides us an opportunity to do a good job in high-quality external communication on the BRI. We should study and make good use of social platforms to carry out external communication on the BRI, promote the internationalization of domestic social platforms, and thereby help the concept of a community of common destiny for mankind embedded in the BRI to be known, understood, and recognized by more international audiences.

四是不断拓展话语渠道。在做好传统媒体的基础上,更加注重社交平台等网络新阵地的搭建和维护。长期以来,传统媒体国际舆论场由美西方国家主导,当前社交平台的快速发展, 为我们高质量做好“一带一路”对外传播提供了契机,应研究并用好社交平台进行“一带一路” 建设的对外传播,推动国内社交平台国际化发展,助力“一带一路”所蕴含的人类命运共同体理念为更多国际受众所知道、理解和认同。

To top

Cite This Page

颜少君 (Yan Shaojun). "The Risks Facing Belt and Road and China’s Choices in the New Situation [新形势下一带一路面临的风险与中国抉择]". CSIS Interpret: China, original work published in China Opening Journal [开放导报], February 8, 2023

FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrintCopy Link