China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) seeks to expand maritime routes and land infrastructure networks connecting China with Asia, Africa and Europe, boosting trade and economic growth.
This transformative programme defines as its five major priorities: policy coordination, facilitating connectivity, unimpeded trade, financial integration and establishing new bonds between people.
Its name was coined in 2013 by China’s President Xi Jinping. He drew inspiration from the concept of the Silk Road established during the Han Dynasty 2000 years ago - an ancient network of trade routes that for centuries connected China to the Mediterranean via Eurasia.
Mr Xi called for the building of a Silk Road Economic Belt and a 21st-century Maritime Silk Road, which would promote economic co-operation and connectivity, primarily through infrastructure investments, among the countries along their proposed routes.
The initiative - initially known as One Belt, One Road – aims to eradicate poverty, create jobs, address the consequences of international financial crises, promote sustainable development, and advance market-based industrial transformation and economic diversification.
This is a long-term project which, for years to come, will give China a key role in guiding and supporting cultural, economic, political, and trade developments around the world.
The initiative now encompasses nearly 70 countries with a population of over 4.8 billion people, more than half the planet’s population. It covers economies worth a total some US$ 21 trillion, accounting for 62 per cent of the world’s GDP and about 65 percent and 30 percent of global land- and maritime-based economic production respectively.
The Fitch ratings agency reported in 2017 that US$ 900 billion in projects were already planned or underway.