Summary of Understanding China’s Belt and Road Initiative

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Understanding China’s Belt and Road Initiative summary

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China’s rapid ascendancy inspires both wonder and trepidation. Some are suspicious of rosy annual growth reports, others suggest that 5-year plans set by a massive central government could never improve upon the invisible hand of the free market, especially in a world economy where capitalism has long been king. Still others predict that a growing middle class is sure to detonate in a spectacular windstorm of political unrest, particularly in light of Xi’s crackdown on freedom of speech and information. But if history is any indication, there’s one panacea that can mitigate all kinds of political unrest, and that’s raw, unadulterated economic growth. So when China announces a move that amounts to “arguably one of the largest development plans in modern history,” speculation is inevitable. Does the One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative primarily serve Beijing’s economic, domestic, or geopolitical goals? The Lowy Institute’s Peter Cai offers a unique perspective on this question. 

About the Author

Peter Cai has written for The Australian, Business Spectator, The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.


Chinese president Xi JinPing announced the One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative in October 2013. OBOR is designed to mitigate China’s excess capacity and regional economic disparity while also addressing wider geopolitical objectives. The initiative consists of plans for two branches:

  1. “Silk Road Economic Belt” – This route will run over land through Central Asia, linking China’s underdeveloped regions with Europe
  2. “21st Century Maritime Silk Road” – This series of ports and railways will connect China’s southern...

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