Follow CAP on Social Media

Listen to the CAP Podcast

Weaponizing China’s Belt and Road Initiative

Since its inception in 2013, Chinese government officials have insisted that the Belt and Road is solely an economic initiative and does not have any military motivations. But the BRI’s civil-military distinction is no longer as clear cut as it used to be. President Xi Jinping himself called for a strong BRI security system to protect China’s overseas interests, people and property.

One little-known aspect of the BRI is that much of the overseas construction, particularly ports, must conform to standards that conform to the People’s Liberation Army’s requirements. So, while today there’s little evidence that China is leveraging the BRI for security or military purposes, there are concerns that it is positioning to be able to do so in the future should the need arise.

Daniel Russel, vice president for international security and diplomacy at the New York-based Asia Society Policy Institute, examined the security dimensions of the BRI in a recent paper. Daniel joins Eric & Cobus to discuss what he calls the Belt and Road’s “civil-military fusion” in maritime, terrestrial and space environments.

Show Notes:

About Daniel Russel:

Daniel Russel is Vice President for International Security and Diplomacy at the Asia Society Policy Institute (ASPI). Previously he served as a Diplomat in Residence and Senior Fellow with ASPI for a one-year term. A career member of the Senior Foreign Service at the U.S. Department of State, he most recently served as the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs. Prior to his appointment as Assistant Secretary on July 12, 2013, Mr. Russel served at the White House as Special Assistant to the President and National Security Council (NSC) Senior Director for Asian Affairs. During his tenure there, he helped formulate President Obama’s strategic rebalance to the Asia Pacific region, including efforts to strengthen alliances, deepen U.S. engagement with multilateral organizations, and expand cooperation with emerging powers in the region.

  • Get a daily email packed with the latest China-Africa news and analysis.
  • Read exclusive insights on the key trends shaping China-Africa relations.
  • Connect with leading professionals on the China- Africa Experts Network.

You've reached your free monthly article limit.

Subscribe today for unlimited access.

What is The China-Africa Project?


The CAP is passionately independent, non-partisan and does not advocate for any country, company or culture.


A carefully curated selection of the day’s most important China-Africa stories. Updated 24 hours a day by human editors. No bots, no algorithms.


Diverse, often unconventional insights from scholars, analysts, journalist and a variety of stakeholders in the China-Africa discourse.


A unique professional network of China-Africa scholars, analysts, journalists and other practioners from around the world.