China’s hugely ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is often described as being more of an idea than an actual policy. Depending on whom you speak with, BRI is characterized as an economic plan to outsource China’s excess domestic industrial output. Other people, notably those in Washington, describe it in more political terms.
The bottom line is that it’s tough to nail down precisely what this thing is because the Chinese themselves don’t do a very good job of explaining it.
“More than any other project, it has come to symbolize a new phase in China’s rise, the moment when Beijing embraces its role as a new superpower, capable of remaking the world economy and attracting other countries to its own economic orbit and ideological model.” — Bruno Maçães, “Belt and Road: A Chinese World Order“
Rather than frame BRI in a more narrow policy context, author and Hudson Institute senior research fellow Bruno Maçães describes believes it’s important to think of this in much broader, even generational terms. “The Belt and Road is the Chinese plan to build a new world order replacing the U.S.- led international system,” he wrote in his latest book “Belt and Road: A Chinese World Order.”
By building massive amounts of infrastructure across Eurasia, and even throughout Africa, China is setting up a new power structure that will be unrivaled in the modern era. “Whoever is able to build and control the infrastructure linking the two ends of Eurasia will rule the world,” he added.
The scale of China’s ambition is staggering. While there are no precise figures that are publicly available, it’s widely believed that Beijing has already spent between $200-$300 billion around the world and is forecast to spend many multiples of that over the next decade. So far, some sixty countries have signed on for BRI projects or have expressed interest to do so in the future, according to the Council on Foreign Relations. In all, BRI impacts countries that account for around two-thirds of the world’s population.
Given its massive scale, it’s not surprising that Bruno and other observers contend that BRI is simply too large, too vast and too complex for any one person to understand. He doesn’t even think senior Chinese officials who supposedly run this thing fully understand what it is and what’s going on with it everywhere around the world.
Bruno joins Eric & Cobus to break down the key BRI themes that he outlined in his recent book and to explain why he thinks the U.S. has good reason to worry that its time as the global hegemonic power may indeed be coming to an end.
- The Council on Foreign Relations: China’s Massive Belt and Road Initiative by Andrew Chatzky and James McBride
- Foreign Policy: A Preview of your Chinese Future by Bruno Maçães
- Jackson Herald Today: China poised to dominate the world order by Mike Buffington
About Bruno Maçães:
Bruno Maçães is a Non-Resident Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute and a Senior Advisor at Flint Global in London. He was the Portuguese Europe Minister from 2013-2015, and was decorated by Spain and Romania for his services to government. Maçães is the author of two books on China and Eurasia:(2019) Belt and Road: A Chinese World Order and (2018) The Dawn of Eurasia: On the Trail of the New World Order.