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Following the Belt and Road


Mention China’s emerging missions movement, and the topic of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) will almost surely follow. The ensuing conversation usually focuses on two aspects of BRI, namely, its geographic scope and business as the vehicle by which Chinese entities will engage with BRI nations. Chinese missionaries who follow the Belt and Road—so the logic goes—will be able to travel to some of the nations least reached with the gospel. Business platforms will provide the means to do so.

As Chinese foreign policy analyst Nadege Rolland points out, BRI is much more than a plan to provide infrastructure projects for China’s neighbors to the West and South. In this informative podcast from the National Bureau of Asian Research, Rolland details the multi-pronged purpose of what she describes as Chinese President Xi Jinping’s “organizing foreign policy principle,” including the areas of:

  • Policy cooperation
  • Financial integration
  • Trade
  • People-to-people exchanges

The official objective is “creation of a community of common destiny” for a region containing two-thirds of the world’s population and accounting for half of the global GPD.

Following the Belt and Road, not just geographically, but as a foreign policy concept, Rolland sees the initiative as “Xi’s baby,” the means by which China will realize the great rejuvenation of the nation and return to its role as the dominant power in the region. As it has expanded in scope, BRI has become a truly global project. It now encompasses the African continent, Latin America, the Arctic, and even outer space. There is also a “Digital Silk Road.”

Rolland, who literally wrote the book on BRI, did not set out to become a world authority on what she describes as “the project of a century.” She hopes that others will pick up where she has left off in order to gauge how Xi’s grand vision is impacting countries along the Belt and Road. Raising some “existential questions” at the close of the podcast, Rolland hints at where the Belt and Road may actually lead. For now, her analysis stands as some of the most thorough available and should be required reading (or listening) for those who are serious about following China’s Belt and Road.

Image credit: On the road dow via Flickr.
Brent Fulton

Brent Fulton

Brent Fulton is the president of ChinaSource and the editor of the ChinaSource Quarterly. Prior to assuming his current position, he served from 1995 to 2000 as the managing director of the Institute for Chinese Studies at Wheaton College. From 1987 to 1995 he served as founding US director of... View Full Bio