Building the New Silk Road. China's Belt and Road Initiative in Context
The International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS) has recently started a new project of interdisciplinary research aimed at the study of the Belt and Road Initiative of the Chinese government, with special attention to the impact of the ‘New Silk Road’ on countries, regions and peoples outside of China.
The project will be in line with the IIAS inclusive, experimental approach to Asian Studies, seeking cooperation not only with international partners from the Social Sciences and Humanities but also with practitioners on the ground (municipalities, local stakeholders, NGO’s, artists and cultural actors, community organisations, businesses, trade unions, etc.). The programme moreover plans to establish formal links with research institutes in China to encourage the widest exchange of information and opinions.
It will also create a ‘news page’ for the notification of seminars, workshops and conferences. In addition, the project intends to launch a business/academic alliance for sharing up-to-date expertise and insights, and to enhance the effectiveness of policy advice.
To help promote advanced teaching on the subject IIAS will host an ‘electronic library’ of online resources that can be used as teaching materials and as starting points for student essays and theses.
The project will be directed by Professor Richard Griffiths, affiliated research fellow and programme coordinator at IIAS. To signal your interest in joining this project, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Version 4.0 October 2019
Richard T. Griffiths (Leiden University)
This is the latest version of an electronic library of resources on the BRI. It is intended to offer support to teachers and students studying the BRI as part of their undergraduate education and to act as a springboard to individual projects. It defines the BRI countries as those listed in the original scheme by the National Development and Reform Commission (i.e. everything from mainland Asia to Central and Eastern Europe but, excepting Egypt, excluding Africa). Any suggestions will be welcome.
The IIAS ‘New Silk Road’ project has over 700 researchers wanting to engage in collaborative teaching and research. The project help facilitate making new connections. To join, please write at the email address above.
Key Steps in China’s Policy
09/2013 Xi Jinping Speech at Nazarbayev University in Kazakhstan launching Silk Road. Summary by MFA of PRC. Also whole speech in Video
10/2013 Xi Jinping Speech to Indonesian parliament launching maritime silk road. Summary by Asean-China Centre. Also whole speech in Video
05/2014 Xi Jinping in Shanghai launching the ‘Asian dream’. Summary by MFA of PRC
03/2017 Steadily Promote Cooperation among South China Sea Coastal States. Speech by Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin at the session on the South China Sea of the Bo’ao Forum for Asia Annual Meeting, 25.3.2017 Boao, Hainan
06/2017 Vision of Maritime Cooperation in Building "Belt and Road" (English and Chinese)
01/2018 China’s Arctic Policy
12/2018 China’s third Policy Paper on the European Union Full Text, 18.12.2018.
4/2019 Full text of Report on progress, contributions and prospects of the Belt and Road Initiative, 22.4.2019.
4/2019 Xi Jinping’s Speech at Second Belt and Road Forum 26.4.2019
NEW 11/2019 Xi Jinping Speech to 2nd China International Import Expo, 5.11.2019
Asian Development Bank Working Paper Series offers many interesting country-specific monographs
Official Chinese government Belt and Road Portal with daily updates of ‘top news’
The China Chronicles. Weekly in-depth reviews of China’s policies are archived here.
Dezan Shira and Associates Silk Road Briefing produces a regular stream of interesting insights
ECNS (English China News Service) has archived its BRI stories since March 2018 at its portal Five Years On: Belt & Road Initiative
HKTDC Insights has a BRI Portal that features many think-tank reports, each with a summary, as well as contributions by the Council’s own staff.
RWR’s Belt and Road Monitor is a bi-weekly newsletter available by subscription
SASS (Shanghai Academy for Social Sciences) has a good Chinese language BRI portal with news and literature feeds
CAREC (annual) Corridor Performance, Measurement and Monitoring
EBRD (annual) Transition Report
Economist Intelligence Unit (annual) China Going Global Index (needs registration)
OECD (annual) Economic Outlook for Southeast Asia, China and India
UNESCAP (biannual) Review of Developments in Transport in Asia and the Pacific
World Economic Forum (annual) Global Competitiveness Report (each edition best looked up in Google)
ADB Institute (2009) Infrastructure for a Seamless Asia, Manila
ADB Institute (2014) Connecting Central Asia with Economic Centers, Tokyo
ADB Institute (2015) Connecting South Asia and Southeast Asia, Manila
ADB (2017) Meeting Asia’s Infrastructure Needs, Manila
Agnew, N. (2004) Conservation of Ancient Sites on the Silk Road. Proceedings of the Second International Conference on the Conservation of Grotto Sites, Mogao Grottoes, Dunhuang, People’s Republic of China, June 28–July 3, 2004
NEW Alonso-Trabanco, J.M. (2019) ‘Geopolitics and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank’ Geopolitical Monitor, 4.7.2019
Arvis, J-F., et al (2011) Connecting Landlocked Developing Countries to Markets. Trade Corridors in the 21st Century, World Bank, Washington, DC
ASEAN (2016) Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity 2025, Jakarta
Bastos, P. (2018) Exposure of Belt and Road Economies to China Trade Shocks, World Bank Policy Research Working Paper, 8503.
Bekkers E. et al (2015) Melting Ice Caps and the Economic Impact of Opening the Northern Sea Route, CPB Discussion Paper 207, The Hague
NEW The Belt and Road Initiative. Progress, Contributions and Prospects 2019. Office of the Leading Group for Promoting the Belt and Road Initiative, April 2019
Benli, Q (2018) “The Domestic Consequences of China’s ‘One Belt One Road Initiative’”, Globalization Monitor, 21.11.2018
NEW Bertelsmann Stiftung (2019) Beyond Investment Screening. Expanding Europe’s toolbox to address economic risks from Chinese state capitalism
Bhattacharay, B.N. et al (eds) (2012) Infrastructure for Asian Connectivity, Cheltenham UK and Northampton Ma (ADB)
Bielenberg, A. et al (2016) Financing change: How to mobilize privatesector financing for sustainable infrastructure, McKinsey
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Bluhm, R., Dreher, A., Fuchs, A., Parks,B., Strange, A., and Tierney, M. (2018) Connective Financing: Chinese Infrastructure Projects and the Diffusion of Economic Activity in Developing Countries, Aid Data Working paper 64, September 2018.
NEW Boustany, C.W. and Friedberg, A.L. (2019) Partial Disengagement: A New U.S. Strategy for Economic Competition with China, NBR Special Report, 82, 4.11.2019
Cai, P. (2017) Understanding China’s Belt and Road Initiative, Lowy Institute
CAREC (2012) From Landlocked to Linked In, ADB, Manila
CAREC (2013) CAREC Transport and Trade Facilitation Strategy 2020 Endorsed at the 12th Ministerial Conference on Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation 23–24 October 2013 Astana, Kazakhstan, ADB, Manila
Chance A. and Mafinezam A. (2016) American Perspectives on the Belt and Road Initiative Sources of Concern and Possibilities for Cooperation, ICAS, November 2016
China’s Digital Silk Road, Transcript of Presentation CSIS, Washington, 5.2.2019.
Chen, X. (ed) (2018) How the CEE Citizens View China’s Development, based on household survey, Budapest
China’s pursuit of A New World Media Order (2019) Reporters without Borders, 22.3.2019
NEW CGTN ‘New global survey shows China's national image steadily improving’, 18.10.2019. Review of China National Image Global Survey 2018
NEW CIOB (2019) Silk Road to Silicon Road, How the Belt and Road Initiative Will Transform the Global Economy, London, 3.6.2019
Citi Group (2018) China’s Belt and Road at Five. A Progress Report, December 2018
Cohen, A. and Grant, J. (2018) Future Calling: Infrastructure Development in Central Asia. Unlocking Growth in the Heart of Eurasia, International Tax and Investment Centre, October 2018
‘Competing Visions’, Reconnecting Asia, September 2018
Constantinescu, C. and Ruta, M. (2018) ‘How Old is the Belt and Road Initiative? Long Term Patterns of Chinese Exports to BRI Economies’, World Bank, MTI Practice Notes, 6, December 2018
Cooley, A. (2016) The Emerging Political Economy of OBOR. The Challenges of Promoting Connectivity in Central Asia and Beyond, CSIS, Washington DC
Dadabaev, T. (2018) ‘“Silk Road” as foreign policy discourse: The construction of Chinese, Japanese and Korean engagement strategies in Central Asia’, Journal of Eurasian Studies, 9, 1, 30-41.
DBS Bank (2018) Understanding China: BRI in Southeast Asia – Beyond infrastructure, 20.8.2018
Derudder, B., Liu, X. and Kunaka, C. (2018) Connectivity Along Overland Corridors of the Belt and Road Initiative, World Bank, MTI Discussion Paper no. 6, October 2018
de Soyres, F., Mulabdic, A., Murray, S., Rocha, N. and Ruta, M. (2018) How Much Will the Belt and Road Initiative Reduce Trade Costs? World Bank Policy Research Working Paper 8614, October 2018. For criticism see this
NEW Devonshire-Ellis, C (2019) ‘Free Trade Zones on China’s Belt & Road Initiative: The Eurasian Land Bridge’ Silk Road Briefing, 19.9.2019
Djankov, S. et al (eds) China's Belt and Road Initiative: Motives, Scope, and Challenges, PIIE Briefing 16-2, March 2016
Dollar, D. (2015) ‘China’s Rise as a Regional and Global Power, The AIIB and the One Belt, One Road’, Horizons, Summer 2015, 4
Downs, E et al (2017) Asia’s Energy Security and China’s Belt and Road Initiative, NBR Special report 68.
Duchâtel, M. and Sheldon Duplaix, A. (2018) Blue China: Navigating The Maritime Silk Road To Europe, ECFR Policy Brief, April 2018
Economist (2016), One Belt One Road: An Economic Road Map, London
Economist Intelligence Unit (2015) Prospects and challenges on China’s ‘one belt, one road’: a risk assessment report, London
Eder, T. ‘Belt, Road and Sword’, Berlin Policy Journal, 3.1.2019
Ekman, A. et al. (2017) Three Years of China’s New Silk Roads. From Words to (Re)action? Études de l’Ifri.
Ekman, A. et al. (2019) China's Belt & Road and the World: Competing Forms of Globalization, Études de l’Ifri
NEW Emerging Markets Forum (2019) China’s Belt and Road Initiative: Potential Transformation of Central Asia and the South Caucasus, January 2019 (later expanded into book with same title)
Eurasian Development Bank (2018) Belt and Road Transport Corridors: Barriers and Investments, Report 50
Eurasian Development Bank (2018) Silk Road Transport Corridors: Assessment Of Trans-EAEU Freight Traffic Growth Potential, Report 49
European Commission (2018) Connecting Europe and Asia - Building blocks for an EU Strategy, Joint Communication to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee, the Committee of the Regions and the European Investment Bank, 19.9.2018
European Council on Foreign Relations (2016) Absorb and Conquer. An EU Approach to Russian and Chinese Integration in Eurasia
European Investment Bank (2017) Wind of change: Investment in Central, Eastern and South Eastern Europe
European Investment Bank (2018) The European Investment Bank in the Western Balkans
European Parliament (2018) Research for TRAN Committee: The new Silk Route - opportunities and challenges for EU transport
EU-China Observer (2015) Exchanging Ideas On EU-China Relations: An Interdisciplinary Approach, EU-China Observer, 1.15
Fan, C-B et al. (2014) Research and Innovation Cooperation between the EU and China. Study for the European Commission DG RTD by Fraunhofer ISI.
Fedorenko, V. (2013) The New Silk Road Initiatives in Central Asia. Washington, Rethink Paper 10.
Fickling, D (2018) ‘Soviet Collapse Echoes in China’s Belt and Road’, Bloomberg, 12.8.2018
Fickling, D. (2018) ‘Railways Put China on a Belt and Road to Nowhere’, Bloomberg 5.11.2018.
Five Connectivity Index Summary of findings, including ranking of 100 countries, December 2018
Foster-McGregor, N. and Verspagen, B. (2016) The Role of Structural Transformation in the Potential of Asian Economic Growth, ADB Economics Working Paper, 479.
NEW Freeman, C.P. and Ōba, M.(2019) Bridging the Belt and Road Divide, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 10.10.2019.
Gabuev, A.A.and Zuenko, I.Y. (2018) ‘The “Belt and Road” in Russia: Evolution of Expert Discourse’, Russia in Global Affairs, 4/2018, 142-163.
Garcia-Herrero, A. and Xu, J. (2018) Recent Developments in Trade, Investment and Finance of China’s Belt and Road, HKUST IEMS Working Paper No. 2018-50
Gaspers, J. (2017) China’s “16+1” Equals Much Ado About Nothing?, Reconnecting Asia Analysis 5.12.2017
Gautrin, J-F. (2014) Connecting South Asia to Southeast Asia: Cross-Border Infrastructure Investments, ADBI Working Paper, 483
Gerben, E., ‘Rocketing Asia-Russia container rail volumes spurs investment calls’, JOC.com, 5.8.2018
Ghaisy R. and Zhou, J. (2017) The Silk Road Economic Belt. Considering Security Implications and EU–China Cooperation Prospects, SIPRI, Stockholm.
Ghossein, T., Hoekman, B. and Shingal, A. (2018) Public Procurement in the Belt and Road Initiative, MTI Discussion Paper, 10
Gilbert, S., Wang, Y., Zhou, L and Martinez-Diaz, L. (2018) Will China Seize the Biggest Green Opportunity of the Coming Decade?, World Resources Institute, 8.11.2018.
Godehardt, N. (2016) No End of History A Chinese Alternative Concept of International Order?, SWP Research Paper
Góralczyk, B. (2017) ‘China’s interests in Central and Eastern Europe: enter the dragon’, Springer, European view
Griffiths, R.T. (2017) Revitalising the Silk Road. China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Introduction and Chapters 1-3
NEW Griffiths, R.T., (2019) The New Silk Road. Challenge and Response, Preface and Introduction
Grübler, J., Bykova, A., Ghodsi, M., Hanzl-Weiss, D., Holzner, M., Hunya, G., and Stehrer, R. (2018) Economic Policy Implications of the Belt and Road Initiative for CESEE and Austria, WIIW Policy Notes and Reports 23, June 2018
Hallgren, H. and Ghiasy, R. (2017) Security and Economy on the Belt and Road: Three Country Case Studies, SIPRI Insights on Peace and Security, 2017/4
Hannah, H.I. (2019) ‘The Great Game Moves to Sea: Tripolar Competition in the Indian Ocean Region’ War on the Rocks, 1.4.2019.
Hansen, C.O. et al (2016) Arctic Shipping –Commercial Opportunities and Challenges. Copenhagen
Herydarian, R.J. (2018) The 21st Century Silk Road. Perils and Opportunities of China’s Belt And Road Initiative, ADR Institute
NEW Herrero, A.G. (2019) Europe’s value chain increasingly dependent on china at the expense of its own regional integration. Natixis beyond Banking, 31.10.2019
Hillman, J.E. ‘The Rise of China-Europe Railways’, CSIS Report, 6.3.2018
Hillman, J.E. ‘China’s Belt and Road is Full of Holes’, CSIS, September 2018
Hilpert, H.G. and Wacker, G (2015) ‘Geoeconomics Meets Geopolitics. China’s New Economic and Foreign Policy Initiatives’ SWP Comments
Hoering, U. (2018) China’s Long March 2.0: The Belt and Road Initiative as development model, Hamburg: VSA-Verlag
Hong, Z. (2016) China’s One Belt One Road: An Overview of the Debate, ISEAS
‘How China is looking beyond borders’, South China Morning Post, 26.4.2019
NEW Horn, S., Reinhart, C and Trebesch, C (2019) China’s Overseas Lending, Kiel Working Paper 2132, 20.6.2019
NEW Hughes, A.C. ‘Understanding and minimizing environmental impacts of the Belt and Road Initiative’, Conversation Biology, March 2019
Hurley, J. e.a (2018) Examining the Debt Implications of the Belt and Road Initiative from a Policy Perspective, CGD Policy Paper, 121
ICBC (2017) Belt and Road. Economic Health Index. Navigating complexity by the stars, London
ICG (2011) Central Asia: Decay and Decline, Asia Report 201
ICG (2017) Central Asia’s Silk Road Rivalries, Europe and Central Asia Report N°245
IDI (2016) Making Inroads: Chinese Infrastructure Investment in ASEAN and Beyond, Ashville NC
ING (2018) ‘Trade impacts of the Belt and Road Initiative’ Economic and Financial Analysis, 6.6.2018
Islam, S. (ed) (2016) EU-CHINA relations. new directions, new priorities, Friends of Europe Discussion paper.
Islam, M. (2019) The Year of the Pig. Can China’s Belt and Road Initiative save the World from a mud fight?, Euler Hermes Economic Research, 30.1.2019.
NEW Iyer, G. (2019) Mega-Ships in the Indian Ocean: Evaluating the Impact and Exploring Littoral Cooperation, ORF Occassional 204, July 2019
Jakóbowski, J., Popławski, K., Kaczmarski, M. (2018) The Silk Railroad The EU-China rail connections: background, actors, interests. OWS Studies 72, February 2018
Jetin, B. (2017) “One Belt-One Road Initiative” and ASEAN Connectivity: Synergy Issues and Potentialities, Institute of Asian Studies, Universiti Brunei Darussalam, Working paper 30
Jiang, Y. (2016) China’s New Development Bank and Infrastructure-led Growth, Norweigan Institute of International Affairs, Policy Brief 18/2016
Johanson, D., Li, J. and Wu T. (eds.) (2019) New Perspectives on China’s Relations with the World, Bristol, 26.3.3019
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NEW Jun, M and Zadek, S (2019) Decarbonizing the Belt and Road. A GREEN FINANCE ROADMAP, September 2019
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NEW Rajah,R., Dayant,A. and Pryke, J.(2019) Ocean of Debt? Belt and Road And Debt Diplomacy In The Pacific, Lowy Institute Analysis, 21.10.2019
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NEW Riga, D. New Perspectives on the Belt and Road Initiative Beyond Doctrinal Debates Interview with Richard T. Griffiths, Asia Focus, 118, July 2019.
NEW Rolland, N. (2019) Securing the Belt and Road Initiative. China's Evolving Military Engagement Along the Silk Roads, NBR Special Report, 80, 3.9.2019
NEW Russel, D.R. and Berger, B. (2019) Navigating the Belt and Road Initiative, Asia Society Policy Institiute, Report, June 2019
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Shen, S. and Chang, W. (2018) ‘A comparative study of the Belt and Road Initiative and the Marshall plan’ Palgrave Communications
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NEW Wang Y. (2019) ‘America’s Belt and Road Syndrome’ China-US Focus, 24.4.2019
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Since President Xi Jinping’s speech in September 2013 announcing China’s ‘Belt and Road’ initiative (BRI), it has scarcely been out of the news. It has also attracted analysis and commentary from academics and think-tanks throughout the world. In China, the reception has been overwhelmingly positive, rarely straying far from official policy pronouncements. In the West, opinion has been mixed. Most security analysts frame the analysis in terms of ‘China’s rise’ and the threat that it poses to US military hegemony and to the established international order in general. Most economists have been cautionary, highlighting the perceived risks in some countries of over-borrowing.
In almost every case, September 2013 is the starting point for analysis, as though China’s BRI is the only event of any relevance. China’s BRI differs from its earlier ‘go global’ policy, whereby Chinese firms were encouraged to seek investment opportunities abroad, through its focus on connectivity and infrastructure, and through its restricted geographical definition. China has defined the Belt and Road as involving 64 countries with 40% of the world’s population and 20% of world trade. That area includes the entire land mass between China and Central-Eastern Europe and within it, China intends to build roads and railways, ports and power stations and to expedite the movement of goods across frontiers. Of course, much of that infrastructure and much of that trade serves China’s interest. As the world’s second largest economy and second largest trader, it would be surprising if it didn’t. And that is China’s ‘belt and road’.
Nobody ‘owned’ the ancient silk roads and nobody ‘owns’ the new silk road of the 21st century. The trucks journey on existing roads, the trains run along existing lines, the container ships that plough the oceans already exist, and businesses fill them and the transport industry makes it all work. Of course, it can all work better by building better highways, by electrifying railways and by improving the flow through borders controls.
Moreover, it is not as though these countries don’t need infrastructure. Recently the Asian Development Bank calculated that Asia requires $1.5 trillion a year in infrastructural investment if it is to sustain a viable development trajectory. At present, it is only capable of financing half of that sum itself. China’s help is needed, but it is not enough. Indeed President Xi has exhorted other countries to join in building the ‘belt and road’. He did not need to do this. They are already there. For example, international development banks are financing highway construction and railway electrification projects across Central Asia and the Caucasus. The European Union is pouring billions into improving the transport infrastructure of new member states and the western Balkans. Japanese firms hold contracts for the construction of High-Speed railways in India and Thailand as well as for the modernisation of the harbour in Jakarta. By leaving all of this out of the story and concentrating solely on China, we are creating our own nightmare. Add a twist of wicked intention to the mixture, and it is little wonder that we have trouble sleeping.
The IIAS is creating a new pillar devoted to interdisciplinary research on the topic of the new silk road, linking the perspective social scientists and historians to the political science and economist approaches that characterises much of the contemporary analysis. In line with IIAS’ inclusive, experimental approach, the IIAS New Silk Road initiative seeks to develop a de-centralised, trans-sectoral network of local partners, able not only to work within the Social Sciences and Humanities, but also with practitioners on the ground (municipalities, local stakeholders, NGOs, artists and cultural actors, community organisations, businesses, trade unions, etc.). Moreover, and whenever possible, the projects within this initiative will engage with existing IIAS programmes under the Institute’s three thematic clusters: urban, global and heritage studies. Partners involved in network platforms, such as the Urban Knowledge Network Asia (UKNA), the European Alliance for Asian Studies, the International Convention of Asia Scholars (ICAS) and the ‘Africa-Asia, A New Axis of Knowledge’ and Cultural Heritage Studies platforms, will also be mobilised.
Richard Griffiths, Programme Coordinator.