China’s BRI dynamism has not been exempt from scepticism and criticism, especially with regard to its financial sustainability. As illustrated by a timely NYT feature [ *China Taps the Brakes on Its Global Push for Influence* ], five years after the inception of the initiative Beijing seems to have started to introduce more caution into its previously ‘unrestrained’ BRI largesse. In the first five months of 2018, BRI-related contracts worth $36.2 billion were signed, down 6 percent from the year before. Extra caution might also be warranted in light of the currently very turbulent international trade environment: the US’ belligerent approach has –among other things- pushed up short-term interest rates, which is likely to make international borrowing more costly, particularly in emerging markets. Additionally, a more restrained approach could also help Beijing bolster its credentials of a ‘responsible’ actor, hence enhancing its overall profile as a (potential) global leader.
Francesco S. MONTESANO
Clingendale weekly Silk Road Newsletter editor