The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), often referred to as the New Silk Road, is Beijing’s ambitious endeavor to rewrite the rules of global geopolitics. While its official introduction speaks of enhancing global connectivity, what truly emerges is China’s aspiration to shape a new world order in line with its vision.
Through the BRI, China’s aim isn’t merely to build infrastructure. It seeks to build influence. The goal isn’t just to address economic challenges but to solidify China’s role as a dominant power on the international stage. Xi Jinping, the Chinese leader, views the BRI as a means to offer an alternative to countries that feel sidelined by the current world order.
A recent official Chinese document on the BRI highlighted Beijing’s criticisms of the existing international system, arguing that it benefits only a handful of powerful nations, leading to disparities between wealthy and developing countries. This perspective is shared by Xi Jinping, who sees the BRI as an opportunity to reshape global dynamics.
However, the picture isn’t entirely positive. Despite its promises, the BRI hasn’t always delivered the anticipated benefits to the involved countries. Take Kazakhstan as an example: despite Beijing’s promises to open new markets for Kazakhstan through the BRI, the country hasn’t experienced significant economic growth. Simultaneously, China’s economic presence in Kazakhstan has surged exponentially.
What does the Belt and Road change?
This raises a question: Is the BRI genuinely an opportunity for the involved countries, or merely a tool to expand Chinese influence? While some countries see the BRI as a development opportunity, others express concerns about the growing Chinese influence in their economies.
In response to these concerns, China has sought to refocus the BRI, emphasizing more tangible projects that directly benefit the participating countries, such as vocational training.
But the BRI isn’t just about economics. It encompasses culture and politics as well. China aims to export its governance model, rooted in Chinese values and norms. This poses a direct challenge to the world order anchored in Western democracies.
Recent initiatives launched by China, like those for Global Development and Global Security, are all pieces of the same puzzle: a China that’s increasingly influential and determined to shape the future of the world order.
In conclusion, the Belt and Road Initiative isn’t just an infrastructure project. It’s a vision, a dream of a China at the heart of the world. As China progresses, the rest of the world will have to decide how to react. Overlooking the BRI is not an option.