Summary of China’s Belt and Road Could Have Been Great but Now Threatens to Be Disastrous

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China’s mammoth Belt and Road Initiative promises to build energy, transport and digital infrastructure across Asia – and to reach as far west as Rotterdam. Just six years in, the project has already partnered with more than 100 countries; estimates of its eventual size run as high as $1.3 trillion. But Western critics, including the EU and the International Monetary Fund, are pushing back. In a succinct article for Prospect, British journalist Isabel Hilton outlines Western objections to Beijing’s agenda and identifies the West’s best point of leverage.

About the Author

Isabel Hilton is a writer, broadcaster and visiting professor at King’s College London.



The EU has objections to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) – Beijing’s mammoth, continent-spanning plan to build transport, energy and digital infrastructure. In 2018, EU members signed a statement of sharp criticism, and in 2019 the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security filed a scathing report. The UK House of Commons followed suit after Prime Minister Theresa May failed to endorse the BRI, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) issued warnings. Some BRI partner countries have withdrawn from or reworked their contracts. In 2019, Italy became the BRI’s first OECD member.


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