Skip to main content

Two-stage approach to revive the Belt and Road Initiative

Updated 2020.05.08 19:24 GMT+8

Pradumna B. Rana and Ji Xianbai

Alibaba Cloud logo is seen at 2019 Hangzhou Apsara Conference, September 25, 2019. /VCG

Editor's note: Pradumna B. Rana is a visiting associate professor at S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. Ji Xianbai holds a doctorate from RSIS. They are coauthors of the forthcoming book entitled "China's Belt and Road Initiative: Impacts on Asia and Policy Agenda." A version of this article has appeared earlier as RSIS Commentary. The article reflects the authors' opinions, and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

In the shadow of COVID-19, the global economic outlook has become dismal. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) recently noted that the economic contraction this year will be so bad that only a handful of people in the world will have experienced a similar event in their adult lifetimes.

Against this backdrop, the physical infrastructure component of China's massive Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) – or "Physical BRI" – has slowed, for several reasons. First, with the ongoing public health crisis, BRI participating countries have put infrastructure development on the back burner.

Second, wholesale community lockdowns and factory closures have disrupted vital BRI supply chains including those supplying Chinese construction machinery and materials.

Third, Chinese migrant workers previously working on BRI projects have often been quarantined (as in Singapore), repatriated (as in Iran), or temporarily banned from entering the country (as in Indonesia) for public health reasons.

But the BRI is Chinese President Xi Jinping's signature foreign and economic policy initiative. China is, therefore, not abandoning it. In fact, China has adopted a two-stage approach in reviving the BRI practically.

*First, with the slowing of the Physical BRI, China is focusing on the non-physical components of the BRI, namely the "Health Silk Road" (HSR) and the "Digital Silk Road" (DSR). In the COVID-19 period, HSR and DSR have become the brand names for BRI. Financing requirements for these two initiatives are also relatively less than for building large cross-border physical infrastructure.*

The HSR is a term coined by President Xi during his visit to Geneva in January 2017 when he signed a memorandum of understanding with the World Health Organisation (WHO), committing that the HSR would seek to improve public health along the BRI countries.

The China-Europe container trains have become a driving force for the development of the Belt and Road Initiative. /Xinhua

In response to COVID-19, China has greatly accelerated activities to revive the HSR. Take, for example, the China-Europe Express Rail. At a time when travel bans choke much of the global air and sea transport, freight trains connecting China and Europe are ferrying medicines, equipment and anti-epidemic supplies to countries across Eurasia including notably Italy, providing a boost to their efforts to tame the disease.

Chinese companies implementing overseas BRI projects such as Huawei and Tencent have brought in relief packages from China, the world's biggest producer of medical kits, to fulfill their social responsibility to the locals. Chinese entrepreneurs are also on the frontline.

Jack Ma has donated 14 million U.S. dollars to international efforts to develop a coronavirus vaccine and sent personal protective equipment for distribution in Japan, the United States, and all 54 African nations.

Like the HSR, the DSR is also set to shine during the pandemic, for two reasons. Firstly, many countries have doubled down on various China-inspired digital solutions to combat COVID-19. China's use of a color-coded application for monitoring individuals' health, contacts and movement is a case in point. The app is being replicated by other affected countries. For example, in March, Singapore rolled out a similar app called "TraceTogether."

*Secondly, COVID-19 is transforming economies, shifting the balance between electronic and retail commerce in favor of the former. With the COVID-19 outbreak and social distancing measures continually pushing economic activities online, China's DSR is set to rise in prominence*.

Once supply chains reconnect and global health issues are resolved, China and BRI participating countries will once again re-start the Physical BRI to build transportation networks, industrial parks and power plants across the vast Afro-Eurasian supercontinent.

COVID-19 will thus have provided an opportunity for China to reflect on its BRI project of the past six years or so and contemplate ways to improve it.

At the Second Belt and Road Summit in 2019 President Xi had acknowledged various constructive criticisms and pledged to reform the BRI. Fine tuning and quality control were to be done with emphasis on "high quality" infrastructure projects. Green and clean cooperation was also pledged.

In this context, a number of studies have recommended policy agenda for both China and BRI participating countries to work towards an improved BRI. In our forthcoming coauthored book entitled China's Belt and Road Initiative: Impacts on Asia and Policy Agenda, we also make 10 key policy recommendations to enhance the prospect of a successful and mutually beneficial BRI 2.0 to both China and participating countries.

Summing up, in the two-stage approach that China has adopted to revive the BRI, it is presently focusing quite appropriately on the HSR and the DSR. In anticipation of the second stage, the revival of Physical BRI, it should also consider implementing the various reform proposals that have been advocated.


Popular posts from this blog

SSG Commando Muddassir Iqbal of Pakistan Army

“ Commando Muddassir Iqbal was part of the team who conducted Army Public School operation on 16 December 2014. In this video he reveals that he along with other commandos was ordered to kill the innocent children inside school, when asked why should they kill children after killing all the terrorist he was told that it would be a chance to defame Taliban and get nation on the side. He and all other commandos killed children and later Taliban was blamed. Muddassir Iqbal has deserted the military and now he is  with mujahedeen somewhere in AF PAK border area” For authenticity of  this tape journalists can easy reach to his home town to interview his family members or   ISPR as he reveals his army service number” Asalam o Alaikum: My name is Muddassir Iqbal. My father’s name is Naimat Ali. I belong to Sialkot divison (Punjab province), my village is Shamsher Poor and district, tehsil and post office  Narowal. Unfortunately I was working in Pakistan army. I feel embarrassed to tell yo

RWR Advisory: Belt and Road at a Glance

This edition covers developments from March 12 - March 26..  Belt and Road at a Glance   Subscribe to the Belt and Road Monitor Top Developments China National Machinery Industry Corporation, commonly known as Sinomach, has agreed to  build  a $845 million, 255-mile railway across  Iran , building upon a sustained period of growth for Chinese investment in Iran that accelerated after Xi Jinping’s state visit to the country in January 2016. The railway will link the cities of Tehran, Hamedan and Sanandaj. China Civil Engineering Construction, a subsidiary of CRCC, is currently also  building  a 263-km railway line from Kermanshah to Khosravi. According to Chinese entrepreneur Lin Zuoru, who  owns  factories in Iran, “Iran is at the center of everything.”On March 23, China’s Ministry of Commerce announced that foreign direct investment by Chinese companies in 50 Belt and Road countries fell by 30.9% year-on-year. While the Ministry stated that this number covers investment across al

CPEC Jobs in Pakistan, salary details

JOBS...نوکریاں چائنہ کمپنی میں Please help the deserving persons... Salary: Salary package in China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in these 300,000 jobs shall be on daily wages. The details of the daily wages are as follows; Welder: Rs. 1,700 daily Heavy Duty Driver: Rs. 1,700 daily Mason: Rs. 1,500 daily Helper: Rs. 850 daily Electrician: Rs. 1,700 daily Surveyor: Rs. 2,500 daily Security Guard: Rs. 1,600 daily Bulldozer operator: Rs. 2,200 daily Concrete mixer machine operator: Rs. 2,000 daily Roller operator: Rs. 2,000 daily Steel fixer: Rs. 2,200 daily Iron Shuttering fixer: Rs. 1,800 daily Account clerk: Rs. 2,200 daily Carpenter: Rs. 1,700 daily Light duty driver: Rs. 1,700 daily Labour: Rs. 900 daily Para Engine mechanic: Rs. 1,700 daily Pipe fitter: Rs. 1,700 daily Storekeeper: Rs. 1,700 daily Office boy: Rs. 1,200 daily Excavator operator: Rs. 2,200 daily Shovel operator: Rs. 2,200 daily Computer operator: Rs. 2,200 daily Security Supervisor: Rs.