An Introduction to the Belt & Road Initiative (BRI)

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI, or B&R), known within China as the One Belt One Road (一带一路 Yīdài Yīlù) or OBOR for short, is a global infrastructure development strategy adopted by the Chinese government in 2013 to invest in more than 150 countries and international organizations. So far, 151 countries have signed up to join the initiative and more than 75% of the world population is involved. The initiative is a economic network that aims to connect many countries together economically under the major leadership of China.


The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) consists of two main components. Firstly, the Silk Road Economic Belt, a trans-continental passage that links China with Southeast Asia, South Asia, Central Asia, Russia, and Europe by land. Secondly, the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, a sea route connecting China’s coastal regions with Southeast and South Asia, the South Pacific, the Middle East and Eastern Africa, all the way to Europe. As such, it can be understood that the "Belt" refers to economic and land-based transport routes from China all the way to Europe, while the "Road" is a network of maritime routes connecting regions through Chinese sea ports. These routes aim to facilitate trade and connectivity across regions.

To back up the initiative, a comprehensive program has been launched to build railroads, ports, airports and roads to connect the participating nations in order to enable more convenient trades.

China’s Vision

China aims to “break the bottleneck in Asian connectivity” through the initiative, as President Xi said. On the surface, this giant transportation network would help China with trades and expand the usage of the Chinese currency Renminbi. Other than that, China can boost the development of its western regions, which are considerably lacking in development and upheavals take place frequently. Through this daring move, China also presents itself as more confident and assertive, ready to take on the role of a regional leader. The significant investments and assistance in building infrastructure China has provided many countries would also boost its international prestige, which would likely prove to be worth all the hassle in the end.

Examples of the projects in the initiative

  • In Kenya, a high-speed railway between Mombasa and Nairobi has been built by Chinese workers, making it the first high-speed railway on the African continent. Besides, the project has also provided jobs and training for a local workforce to operate the railway
  • In Africa, China’s banks have funded numerous projects, including a major gas pipeline and railways in Nigeria along with projects in Uganda, Egypt, Ethiopia and many other countries.



An enormous trade network has been constructed due to the initiative. It has benefited all parties to varying degrees as each party has their own needs. For example, developing nations in regions such as Africa now have an easy route and means to export their goods abroad, thanks to the improved infrastructure, which is another benefit they have received. The more developed nations also get easier and often cheaper access to resources and products from developing nations, which also fits their needs. However, on the flip side, the initiative has been viewed critically by some out of distrust for China, and concerns of developing nations getting exploited have also been raised. It is no doubt that this program would have massive impacts for the entire world for years to come though, be it positive or negative, and it is unquestionable that it has contributed to building a more interconnected global trade network.

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