China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has become a defining feature of Xi Jinping's foreign policy and dramatic symbol of China's rise as a global power. At the recent BRI Forum in Beijing, China celebrated the BRI as a gift to the world that has created huge economic benefits. China has claimed that 420,000 jobs have been created in BRI countries and 40 million people lifted out of poverty thanks to BRI-generated growth. Others see the BRI as less benign: a political tool aimed at boosting China's global standing while assisting Chinese companies overseas, suggesting that that China's development model is better for emerging market economies that offered by the West, and saddling poor countries with debt. While the idea of China having set "debt traps" has been definitively debunked, Chinese banks became ensnared in lending without proper assessments of risk and learned some hard lessons.
After ten years, the BRI is becoming more focused and strategic. The new emphasis on "small yet smart" project suggests that future endeavors will have higher standards and better returns, and involve industries like green energy and digital infrastructure. There also seems to be an emphasis on projects closer to home in Southeast Asia. Join us for an informative session to assess what the BRI has come to represent for China and what to expect moving forward.
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