Eastern Promise

by Rachel

Announced in August 2015, the Chinese government’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) aims to revive the traditional ‘silk road’ trade routes and enhance cultural and economic ties between China and the wider world.

It will involve significant investment, primarily in infrastructure related projects. There are two streams: the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road (see graphic). As areas see higher investment, other development will follow. 

Estimates predict that the Chinese government will invest at least $900bn in the initiative and it is considered so strategically important that it was enshrined in the Chinese constitution in October 2017. 

With a target end date of 2049, the BRI is going to be a fundamental driver of global construction over the coming years, both in terms of volume and the creation of new standards and building technologies.

However, as with anything at this scale, there are no guarantees. Reports earlier this year indicated that some projects have met with delay or controversy. Reasons included rising budgets, fears over foreign infrastructure investment (with Chinese companies seeking a large ownership stake in projects), a perceived lack of benefit for local companies, and a lack of local capacity to deliver projects.

If these issues are solved, the next 30 years of development is well mapped out. 

The numbers:

  • 900bn investment
  • 65 countries directly affected
  • 38% of the world’s land
  • 62.3% of the world’s population
  • responsible for 30% GDP and 24% household consumption

The Silk Road Economic Belt has three routes:

  • China – Central Asia – Russia – Europe (the Baltic)
  • China – Central Asia – West Asia – Persian Gulf – Mediterranean Sea
  • China – Southeast Asia – South Asia – Indian Ocean

The 21st Century Maritime Silk Road has two routes:

  • Coastal China – South China Sea – Indian Ocean – Europe
  • Coastal China – South China Sea – South Pacific

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