The project was developed at the initiative of the Middle East Political and Economic Institute, the Center for China Studies, and the EURISC Foundation, under the coordination of Mr. Flavius CABA-MARIA, Mr. Alexandru GEORGESCU, Mr. Liviu MUREȘAN, and Mr. Radu-Cristian MUȘETESCU. Also, a large number of experts from all over the world brought their contribution to the content of the project.
This project resulted in a published book with the following content:
Part I: The Status of the Belt and Road Initiative and 17+1 Cooperation
Chapter 1. The Current Strategic Initiatives
Part II: The Current Context’s Influence on the Belt and Road Initiative and 17+1 Cooperation
Chapter 2. Evolution of the Wider Security and Economic Environment
Chapter 3. The Challenges of Going Global – the Belt and Road Initiative Perspective
Part III: Towards a Belt and Road Initiative 2.0 (BRI 2.0)
Chapter 4. Potential Projects with Expanding Dimensions
Chapter 5. Proposals on Economic Cooperation
Presentation of the main elements:
What world are we living in? What kind of future is in front of us? Can we discuss a “new normal”, a “next normal” or rather about an “unpredictable whirlwind” affecting the global level, the national one, and, finally, the personal level?
The traditional geopolitics and geo-economics, which should be adapted to the fluidity and variability of the local and regional conflicts expressing the world disorder, are now left behind by the emergence of non-state actors, by the globalization of capital and of organized crime, by the relative ease of access to weapons of mass destruction, by the digitalization of human relations and by the threat of natural catastrophes, sometimes carried by the most primitive forms of life.
In order to successfully manage its assets, liabilities, and opportunities, this world needs discipline (not the current anarchy), it needs trust, including trust in its leaders (not distrust against everybody and everything), it needs stable and strong leadership (not weak leaders, only to contest their every move afterward), it needs global solidarity (not succumbing to national selfishness), it needs productive investment (as opposed to short term consumerism), it needs transborder or transnational solutions (and not taking refuge in national protectionism and archaic forms of social networking).
After more than four decades of reform and opening-up, China is incontestably an economic, political, and military superpower. The largest developing country worldwide is guided by the principles of socialism with Chinese characteristics, “the only choice for the development of modern China” (Xi, 2017, pp. 53, 56). The singularity of this system is underlined by its three key characteristics: an inclination towards solidarity and unity; strong leadership, combined with self-discipline; results-oriented governance. “Prosperity for all” is at the heart of the leadership with Chinese characteristics and this principle is also supported by China internationally, under the motto of “building a community of shared future for mankind”.
China’s new vision for development and global governance under President Xi Jinping, accompanied by the ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) launched in 2013 mark the end of the tāo guāng yǎng huì philosophy (“keep a low profile and bide for your time”) and propels China into the position of an active and visible key global player. Not only as a producer, consumer, trader, investor, and innovator but also as a driving force of international relations. The reactions of the already established powers have been underscored by the multitude of protectionist and hedging strategies, communications, and policies issues recently by each of the members of the triad composed of the United States, the EU, and Russia (Japan and South Korea, in waiting), which dominated the world economy until the turn of the century.
After a moderate change of attitude of the Western world towards China during 2015 and 2016, starting with the National Security Strategy of the United States of America (NSS) of 2017, where China was considered together with Russia as a threat to “American power, influence, and interests, attempting to erode American security and prosperity” (NSC, 2020), one can remark a “fundamental reevaluation” of the Western world relations with China. The US-China trade war is one of the forms of this reevaluation. Various documents point to multiple challenges posed by China, such as economic, in terms of values and related to security. The EU-China Strategic Outlook of March 2019 presented China as a “systemic rival” and among the ten actions proposed by the European Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, those regarding the security of 5G networks (a field where Huawei is an undisputed leader) and screening of foreign direct investment in critical assets, technologies and infrastructure definitely indicated an evident lack of trust, a new way of looking at China. Under the mask of “defense of the own values”, the Western world started to find ways to curb China’s advances. The coronavirus pandemic of 2020 made the majority of the governments worldwide declare the overreliance on China-based supply chains as a major threat and design new policies in order to reduce this overdependence.
Overall, we may say that the Chinese economic miracle and its rapid transformation of the country and its people have led it to a critical threshold, both in the viability of its economic model and in its role and responsibilities. Profound changes are both taking place and called for in order to manage the transition to China’s next phase of development which, in just one of its dimensions, will require it becoming a source of capital, not just a destination, a source of technology, of innovation, and of leadership on important collective issues. The main vehicle by which China is conducting this change is the Belt and Road Initiative, which has been linked to the “Chinese Dream”, the “community of shared destiny for all mankind” and “China’s peaceful rise”. These are political formulas that are increasingly contested not just by newly vocal rivals, such as the US, but also by pensive partners attracted by the possibilities of cooperation but concerned by its strategic implications.
The Belt and Road Initiative has been dubbed a “project of the century” and features a massive mobilization of resources and governance capacity to improve global connectivity for trade, innovation, and general development. It is also viewed as an instrument of power that threatens to displace the Western-led order from which China has benefited immensely in favor of a “new model of Great Power relations”. This is why it will be strongly opposed by some, gladly supported by others, and prudently mistrusted by many.
In promoting this project, China has as its comparative advantages in the confrontation with its opponents and rivals, its geography, its demography (which include not only the number of citizens but also their unparalleled sense of discipline, hardworking, frugality, sacrifice, learning, endurance, and national cohesion), its culture, its capacity to generate technical and scientific progress, as well as the strength, stability, and the coherence of its leadership.
Many claim that, after the SARS-Cov-2 pandemic, the world will be completely different as compared to what was before. In fact, that pandemic is not the cause of such a transformation but its symptom only or an agent of the old-world order’s dismantlement. The reasons for that change are more profound and, with or without this pandemic, they were merely waiting for a shock (natural or human-made) able to change an otherwise unacceptable transformation into an unavoidable one.
The economic and trade exchanges between the economies of the world are increasingly strengthened, which has led to economic integration and interdependence. The world is moving from mono-nationalism to regionalism, from conflict to cooperation and complementary mutual integration. As this decoupling occurs, US-China tensions will provoke a more explicit clash over national security, influence, and values. The European elites consider that the EU should defend itself more aggressively against competing economic and political models. This more independent Europe will generate friction with both the US and China. In the meantime, Russia and India are pursuing their own interests as big powers in the Eurasia and Indo-Pacific regions, and not to forget Japan and South Korea. In this challenging situation, it is important to discover and strengthen the common ground, while ensuring the maintenance of vital national interests in any formula for cooperation.
The present report presents a Central and Eastern European (CEE) perspective on the BRI and, from among its subordinate initiatives, the 17+1 Cooperation between China and its CEE partners. Chapter 1 presents an overview of the strategic initiatives, discussing some aspects in detail and providing a critique of China’s implementation of its strategic projects. Chapter 2 discusses the evolution of the wider context, with an overview of strategic trends and the rapidly changing and challenging security environment, given the pandemic. Chapter 3 analyzes China’s relations with significant powers and regions, but with an ultimate focus and relevance for Europe. Chapters 4 and 5 contain a series of proposals and suggestions for enhancing the BRI. Chapter 4 focuses on non-economic dimensions and Chapter 5 deals with economic cooperation proposals.
The report advances a series of critiques and recommendations for the BRI and the 17+1 Format, drawn from the experience of the contributors and the considerations on the current geopolitical environment.
This project draws from a wide array of resources and features a significant number of contributors who have lent their expertise and experience to craft a document of reference for the future development of the BRI and to present a mainly Central and Eastern European contribution to the ongoing global debate over the BRI and the changes we are experiencing.
The Middle East – a Linchpin between the Belt and Road Initiative and 17+1 Format
Beijing is increasingly searching for stable sources of energy to power its growing economy. This has meant that China’s relations with resource-rich Persian Gulf states have been intensified, while Beijing has become more pragmatic in its approach to the region. (Wakefield, 2011, p. 2). The bilateral economic relationship has known a boost since the 1990s (Janardhan, 2011) and energy represents a salient aspect of the strategy (Liao, 2015). Energy partnerships became particularly significant when demand for imported oil from the US and EU plateaued into the 2000s (Horesh, 2016). Thus, “between 2000 and 2014, Sino-Middle East trade volume increased 17-fold from $18 billion to $312 billion”. It was the year 2010 when China replaced the US as the region’s largest trading partner. Bilateral economic ties are still defined by China’s enormous energy demands so that Beijing has ensured its supply by signing bilateral memoranda of understanding (MoUs) with all major crude oil supplying countries in the region. The MoUs come accompanied by different business arrangements accompanying the oil sector (Hornschild, 2016, p. 1). The Middle East becomes self-evidently an important platform in the BRI for its oil and gas reserves. Looking at the other perspective, South and East Asia are the economic powerhouses that keep the oil in the tanks for globalization (Chu, 2017). Moreover, China is looking to gain new places of influence, while the Middle East is comprised of important spheres of influence. So, it does not come as a surprise that China raised the status of the Middle East in its diplomatic thinking and the region is having a more prominent status in China’s foreign relations (Quero, 2017).
An Eastward drift is possible for the Middle East. When it comes to Middle Eastern countries that have flexible and/or limited ties with the West – like Egypt, Iran, Israel, Turkey – enhanced relations with China, and the other Asian powers, become an attractive possibility in the current context. Even those with powerful Western connections – Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE have increasingly considered going Eastward. The BRI’s maritime, energy and transport corridors will automatically enhance China’s presence and ties with Middle Eastern states. Concomitantly, the same process will also encourage broader regional cooperation, if not integration, as interdependencies along the Belt and Road Initiative are inevitable in this grand connectivity plan. Lasting relations will be a significant change for the region, as the Middle Eastern alliances are momentary, driven by short-term interests (Fawcett, 2016).
The prospects of China doubling its investments in the Arab region to $60 billion by 2023 provides a concrete incentive for the involvement of countries in the BRI, boosting the chances for cooperation, as the Middle Eastern countries are pursuing infusions of capital, technology transfers, and goods and services from China (Ehteshami, 2018). President Xi Jinping’s call for raising Arab-Chinese trade from $240 billion in 2014 to almost triple ($600 billion) in ten years highlights the seriousness of the plan for the Arab region. China clearly stated its aims for a win-win partnership with the region, coordinating different strategies with Arab states, notably in the fields of production capacity, infrastructure construction, trade and investment facilitation, nuclear power, space exploitation, new energy, agriculture, and finance (Xinhua, 2016).
The comprehensive strategic partnership between China and Iran was first proposed by President Xi Jinping of China during a visit to Iran where he met his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani, in 2016. Iran fully understands the implications of China’s swift rise as a global power. China, meanwhile, understands that Iran is a major regional power situated at the crossroads of the Middle East and Central Asia – an important area to the Belt and Road Initiative. This 25-year partnership – which has political, economic, and security dimensions – and the negotiations around it have important economic and geopolitical implications. Based on this agreement, Iran could receive almost $400 billion in Chinese investment over the next quarter of a century. The investment and security pact would vastly extend China’s influence in the Middle East, throwing Iran economic salvation and creating new breaking points with the United States. The sanctions regime envisioned by the US and the application of constant pressure to coerce the Iranian leadership into its preferred policies are undermined, ineffectiveness, by the deepening ties with China through channels which the US and its allies cannot easily disrupt (Asian land routes, etc.) (Caba-Maria and Mușetescu, 2020).
China- GCC economic relations are consistent and increasingly diversified, based largely on trade, but increasingly significant when it comes to investment and finance as well (Fulton, 2019). China-GCC relations have developed in a manner consistent with the five BRI cooperation priorities of policy coordination, facilities connectivity, unimpeded trade, financial integration, and people-to-people bonds (UNDP, 2020). In the initial list of BRI economic corridors announced in 2015, the Arabian Peninsula was overlooked. Since then, Chinese and Gulf leaders have emphasized the BRI as an important element for bilateral relations. The strategic importance that Chinese leaders attached to the Persian Gulf and Arabian Peninsula is made obvious because it goes beyond strict development projects, and underlines intra-regional connectivity (Fulton, 2019). In this sense, the Ministers’ Meeting of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum in Beijing, announced the “Industrial Park — Port Interconnection, Two-Wheel and Two-Wing Approach” strategy meaning that Chinese -built industrial parks will be arranged in key GCC cities with regional ports, creating a regional network and establishing a hub that links other maritime silk route regions such as South Asia and East Africa (Fulton, 2019). On the other hand, the Gulf monarchies have their own reasons (the need for economic diversification, looking to commerce with Asia, decline in the oil price to name a few) to accelerate the processes related to BRI. Including in the most recent global crisis (whose effects are yet to be assessed) generated by the pandemic, the leading Gulf Cooperation Council States were interested in obtaining answers via China that could enable them to swiftly re-engage economic activity (Al Monitor, 2020).
The BRI can transform the Middle East’s and the extended region’s economy by enabling strong networks across Asia, Europe, and Africa. The Middle East is pivotally located in the middle of the Eurasian landmass, which can connect both ways – to Africa and Asia. As such, the Middle East can play a key role in the BRI framework. After the recession of 2008, the nations in the Middle East have reoriented themselves to economic diversification and growth (Fardoust, 2016), but unfortunately, it was hindered by political instability. The BRI could help the Middle East economies in their goals, especially given a restructuring of priorities in the region. Since China announced the BRI in 2013, the Middle Eastern states – notably in the Persian Gulf region and in Israel and Turkey – have regarded it as a potential driver in order to enhance bilateral cooperation needed for economic flourishing. BRI induces trans-regional synergies that different from traditional globalized commerce. Cross-country synergy could be factor-driven, efficiency-driven, technology-driven, or wealth-driven (Namaki, 2017).
At the outset, China has heavily invested in the energy sector – crucial to its demands, both in traditional and renewable energy. China plans to focus on three areas of cooperation with the Arab countries (Al Fazari & Teng, 2019). First, comes the energy sector – a key driver for the industry of China. The second area is infrastructure construction and trade and investment facilities. The third area is in the field of more sophisticated industries, such as nuclear energy, space satellite, and renewable energy – the amount for each industry could be read in Figure 14. In time, we may observe the extension of the BRI and its Middle East infrastructure system towards North Africa, providing further opportunities for integration and synergistic development.
Ultimately, the correlated boost of commercial activity with the GCC, which has more financial resources than other regions in the Middle East can effectively protect China’s political and economic interests in the Middle East3 (Caba-Maria, 2019). One should note that Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Qatar are also the core members of the OPEC. Thus, upgrading relations with this specific part of the Middle East will boost China’s influence in the international energy system and enable new strategies for ensuring energy security. If a free trade zone with China is implemented in the GCC (Qian and Fulton, 2017), China may combine Shanghai Cooperation Organization goals and free trade ambitions, underscoring the geo-economic interests that are at stake in the BRI (Dorsey, 2019).
It becomes clear that BRI is not only about the economy – it can increase receptiveness to the influence of public diplomacy. In recent attempts to gain soft power, China increased financial support for humanitarian aid and relief in the Middle East (Zambelis, 2015), with the most recent proof during the pandemic. Overall, China maintains a balancing act in Eurasia. One could notice in this sense that China upgraded its cooperation with Iran to a strategic status – noting Iran’s connectivity power to Central and South Asia, while avoiding troubles with Israel and Saudi Arabia for that reason and keep at bay tensions with other players, such as the Russian Federation and the European Union. In addition, BRI could provide us with answers about connectivity models, hereby offering a model to European countries when dealing with the Middle East (necessitating the rethinking of strategies generated within the European Union). Beyond an enormous financial capital meant to boost economic development, BRI carries relational benefits that could help generate the stability needed in a much-troubled region like the Middle East. It is not only the impetus for the economy that matters but also the possible implications for security and multilateral diplomacy.
The President of the China Institutes for Contemporary International Relations, Yuan Ping, said in a speech on 17 July 2020 that “[t]he coronavirus pandemic has not changed the fact the world is experiencing a once-in-a-century change but has simply made that change a bit quicker and a bit more abrupt. It has not changed the basic shape of China’s relations with the world but instead has made these relations more complex and multi-faceted”.
This report has striven to present a CEE perspective on these issues and to advance a series of proposals for improving the cooperation within the BRI, keeping in mind its strengths, its structural flaws, and the challenging political and security environment in which it is being implemented and which will remain so for the foreseeable future.
These proposals are of both economic and non-economic nature and they seek not only to address criticism but also to explore new dimensions of BRI cooperation made possible and necessary by technological advancement, by collective challenges, and by the uncertainty of a rapidly changing world.
Among them, we mention the following:
- The multilateralization of the BRI and the improvement of governance mechanisms for project selection, financing, and sustainable implementation. From a multilateral perspective, the best way forward for the Belt and Road Initiative is for it to become an international organization, so that other countries would feel more involved and could cooperate better to implement its projects;
- The development of sub-regional cooperation and the pursuit of synergies with other regional cooperation and coordination initiatives and mechanisms;
- A renewed emphasis on cooperation to ensure resilience in the face of crisis and emergency situations which may disrupt transborder infrastructure operation;
- An emphasis on new dimensions and sectors for cooperation – space, cyber, and new technologies;
- The development of new business models for Chinese companies going abroad, that address the criticism articulated by BRI partner countries;
- The improvement of the 17+1 Format and the exploration of new avenues for development, such as a 17+1 Format and the Middle East synergy;
- The triangulation and the development of common projects in third countries and the multilateralization of the 17+1 Format, while also including actors such as the EU to alleviate anxieties;
- The establishment of an Organization for Energy Transit Countries to address important factors in the sustainability, accessibility, and affordability of energy.
From all of these issues, we would like to stress that the exuberance of the support for the BRI in what is still an initial phase has resulted in the development of new and unanticipated dimensions with significant potential for systemic change – an Arctic Silk Road, a Health Silk Road, a Digital one.
The report noted that the rise of the developing world, in general, and that of China, in particular, is generating significant systemic effects on the framework of international relations, global business, and cross-border investment. The opportunities are significant, but so are the uncertainties, especially related to the “interregnum” before a new equilibrium is reached in the world order. The prevention of conflict and of systemic disruptions, in the context of generalized crises such as the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic or the US-China trade war, is vital.
The November 2020 US Presidential elections are unlikely to change anything in the current trajectory of confrontation. The new trends in the US political system favor such a confrontation, although the details of strategies and engagement will vary in accordance with the alternation of the US parties in the institutions with policy levers for foreign relations, industry, and so on. A more comprehensive factor of change, one way or the other, will be the decision-making process within the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, which will deliver results in the next few months. The fallout from the deterioration in US-China relations can be felt everywhere and requires significant balancing on the part of countries with complex economic and security structures and partnerships. The EU is in just such a situation, and so are many of the countries in the CEE region.
Three recommendations for the BRI also stand out:
- In the process of “going out” in the past, Chinese state-owned enterprises often needed to consider political factors but did not take into account the economic and environmental factors of cooperative projects. In countries along the route, the BRI is often mistaken for China’s national actions rather than corporate actions. Therefore, China should pay attention to the low proportion of private enterprises in the public-private joint venture (PPP) model promoted by the Belt and Road Initiative;
- The European Connectivity Strategy reflects a certain extent that the European Union has its own geostrategic considerations in its perception of China’s BRI. The development levels of the EU Member States and their respective geostrategic considerations are different, and thus the interests and needs of the BRI are different. Taking the characteristics of such multiple perceptions and differences into consideration, China needs to carry out multi-faceted and multi-fold cooperation with the EU on the BRI, that is, to promote the multi-level participation of EU institutions, EU member states, local governments, and EU companies;
- To promote multi-faceted cooperation between China and Europe through the BRI combined with third-party market cooperation and long-term exchanges and cooperation in the fields of education and humanities. For example, enterprises, especially Chinese state-owned enterprises in Central and Eastern Europe should strengthen their own quality and social responsibility, establish a good corporate image, take actions to reduce EU accusations against Chinese state-owned enterprises, and eliminate the misunderstanding of the EU public and political circles towards the BRI through the positive spillover effects and externalities of projects.
The Belt and Road Initiative is not necessarily compatible with the geostrategic interests of other countries in the established geopolitical structure, and there is even a certain degree of confrontation if their interests are touched by continued BRI entrenchment. So far, the United States, Russia, the European Union, and India have all put forward strategies or initiatives for Eurasian connectivity, which are aimed at effectively expanding their own economic influence circles and ensuring their own energy security.
There are varying degrees of competition with the BRI. At the beginning of the 21st century, China (the Belt and Road Initiative), the United States (the New Silk Road), Russia (the Eurasian Economic Union), Countries and organizations such as the European Union (Pan-European Corridor, INOGATE Project), India, Turkey, Iran, etc. all compete, cooperate and even clash in the historical space of the Pan-Silk Road.
With the rapid rise of domestic and international strategic pressure facing China, the countries and regions along the BRI have become more important in China’s foreign strategy. In the construction of the Belt and Road, it is necessary to understand the strategic intentions of the BRI based on the geopolitical and economic interests of the major countries along the route, so as to increase strategic mutual trust and avoid misjudgments. Experts contributing to the report consider it necessary for the BRI and the US version of it (New Silk Road and C5+1 mechanism), Russia’s Eurasian Economic Union, the European Connectivity Strategy, India’s Indo-Pacific Concept, and other peripheral interconnection strategies to develop interactive relations. The various Eurasian geostrategies of other powers must be analyzed based on their respective geopolitical and economic interests and in accordance with the development of the situation (Li and Liu, 2020).
At the same time, China must strive, along with its partners, to develop semiotics of the BRI, its own language, and symbology to anchor it in the minds of the global audience. Though it was not in the scope of the report to delve more deeply into this issue, there are multiple references to the confusion surrounding the BRI terminology, its constituent components, its goals, and its methods. This confusion arises from the pluralism of the initiative, even within China itself, where companies, provinces, municipalities, and universities strive to become involved and put their own spin on the development. Efforts should be made to make the BRI not only more transparent but also more “legible”, to not add to a world ‘lost in transition’ by ‘losing it in translation’. While the report touched on this more obliquely, this issue is related to the development of BRI management, involving aspects of governance but also a new modus operandi for global cooperation. Whenever there are criticisms of Chinese bilateralism or modes of financing projects, these reports trace, in fact, an emerging BRI style of management, that needs to be refined and to borrow from the professional governance of established multilateral financial institutions that select and fund complex projects. This management pattern is evolving in parallel with digitalization, which the pandemic may also accelerate. The impact of the ubiquity of digitalization will be felt in the management, governance, and the future consistency of the BRI and will end up defining how its (physical and digital) infrastructure will coalesce into a new system-of-systems architecture for global trade and other exchanges.
In lieu of definitive conclusions, which are unlikely for a fluid and mutable project such as the BRI, we end this report with a recommendation for policymakers to view the systemic impact of policy positions and proposals, based on interdependencies and factors beyond the control of any one country, and to compartmentalize many of the global issues which require collective responses and would otherwise be neglected in the current environment.
The BRI is not a mere infrastructural development project, but a vision for new world order, and as such, it does not speak for a world to be built by China, as the present world was built by the US (at least in accordance to some American scholars’ opinion), but for a joint endeavor leading us to a harmonious coexistence in a global environment designed, shaped, and exploited by all nations ready to involve themselves in the process. Therefore, BRI could and should be moved ahead only by combining bilateral and multilateral formats of consultation, coordination, and cooperation, involving state and non-state actors (political parties, academic forums, nongovernmental organizations, and so on) and having both a theoretical and a pragmatic character (commercial, economic, and security).
Being more than an industrial engineering exercise, BRI should develop its human and intellectual dimensions. One has to raise awareness that this is about changing ways of thinking, perceiving, and coexisting, and thus transforming the modus operandi within the global community. It is not enough for BRI to point out the physical infrastructure advancing on the ground or in the sky, but it should win the minds and hearts of ordinary people.
This could be part of the upcoming debates on the new world order after the SARS-Cov-2 pandemic. Thirty years ago, after the collapse of the bipolar world order, countless conferences, seminaries, round tables, etc. were convened to bring together people from different parts of the world to discuss the future and especially on how one could make globalization work for all. This is the right time to do the same on the subject of the BRI.
In a written Message to the High-level Video Conference on the “Belt and Road International Cooperation: Combating COVID-19 with Solidarity” on 18 June 2020, President Xi Jinping wrote the following: “COVID-19 has made many things clear to mankind. For one thing, all nations have their destinies closer connected and humanity is in fact a community with a shared future. Be it taming the virus or achieving economic recovery, humanity cannot succeed without solidarity, cooperation, and multilateralism. The right approach to tackling the global crisis and realizing long-term development is through greater connectivity, openness, and inclusiveness. This is where Belt and Road international cooperation can make a big difference”.
While the BRI is based on a concept that embraces the whole world, its implementation starts at local levels. Without successful stories at the local level, highlighting benefits and countering or appeasing criticism, it will not advance.
Acting locally means acting regionally too, and that approach requires either splitting the whole project into regional initiatives (like 17+1 Format) or attaching it to regional cooperative arrangements already in place (such as the “Three Seas Initiative”, the European Union’s Strategy for the Danube Region), which could become supportive carriers for the entire idea, allowing it to insert smoothly and effectively into areas like the EU, Central Asia, or the Middle East, where it is not necessarily welcomed by everybody.
China alone could not cope with all challenges of the BRI, certainly not with the need to properly fund it. Such a project with a strategic global significance requires a global mobilization of financial resources both in the public and private sectors. Therefore, the development of a “BRI financial market” or of a “BRI financial network” with more dedicated financial institutions, including an exchange market of the investments linked to the implementation of the BRI, is going to be of paramount importance.
For many, BRI might look utopian. From that perspective, one should remember that all great ideas which eventually changed history were received with reservations. Yet, almost all major achievements today were the utopias of yesterday. Approached wisely and boldly, BRI has all the chances of being a key achievement of tomorrow.
List of Contributors (in alphabetical order)
- BALEN Matej, Vice-President, Chinese Southeast European Business Association, Croatia, and Chongqing University, China
- CABA-MARIA Flavius-Ieronim, President, Middle East Political and Economic Institute (MEPEI), Romani
- CIONGA Victor, Senior Economist, Adviser, Romania
- CÎRNU Carmen, Head of Department for Cybersecurity and Critical Infrastructure, National Institute for Research and Development in Informatics, Romania
- COSTA Catia Miriam, Center of International Studies, University Institute of Lisbon, Portugal
- CREȚU Gabriela, Chairman of the European Affairs Committee, Romanian Senate, Romania
- DIMITRIJEVIĆ Duško, Fellow and Former Head of the Institute of International Politics and Economics, Serbia
- DUARTE Paolo Afonso Brardo, CICP, University of Minho, Portugal
- ECOBESCU Nicolae, Former Ambassador, Former Deputy Minister, MFA, Romania
- GANEA Marcela, Analyst, Romania
- GEORGESCU Alexandru, Strategic Analyst, EURISC Foundation, Romania
- GHEORGHIȚĂ Monica, Former State Secretary, MFA, Romania
- ISTICIOAIA-BUDURA Viorel, Former Ambassador to China, Japan, and South Korea, former Asia-Pacific Director in European External Action Service, Romania
- JOKANOVIĆ Nikola, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Political Science, University of Hradec Kralove, Czechia
- KOLAR Nikica, Research Assistant, Department for International Economic and Political Relations, the Institute for Development and International Relations, Croatia
- MEMAJ Fatmir, Professor, Faculty of Economy, University of Tirana, and Executive Director of Albanian Socio-Economic Think Tank, Albania
- MUREȘAN Liviu, President, EURISC Foundation, Romania
- MUȘETESCU Radu-Cristian, Faculty of International Business Relations, Director, Center for China Studies, Bucharest University of Economic Studies
- OEHLER-ȘINCAI Iulia Monica, Senior Researcher, Romanian Academy, Romania
- OLTEȚEANU Angel Cristian, Financial Expert, Bucharest University of Economic Studies
- PENDRAKOVSKA Patrycja, President, Boym Institute, Poland
- PĂSĂTOIU Florin, Director, Center for Foreign Policy and Security Studies, Romania
- PIVARIU Corneliu, Mr. Gen. (ret), former First Deputy Director of Military Intelligence, Independent Expert, Romania
- PRUNARIU Dumitru-Dorin, Cosmonaut, Lt. Gen. (ret.), former Chairman UN COPUOS
- ŠELO Šabić Senada, Senior Researcher, Department for International Economic and Political Relations, the Institute for Development and International Relations, Croatia
- SEVERIN Adrian, Former MEP and Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Romania
- VANGELI Anastas, Research Fellow, EU-Asia Institute, ESSCA School of Management, Angers, France
- VASA László, IFAT – The Institute for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Hungary
- VERNYGORA Vlad, Lecturer, Tallinn University of Technology, Estonia
- VEVERA Adrian-Victor, Director General, National Institute for Research and Development in Informatics, Romania
- VLAD Corneliu, Analyst, Romania
- XI Zhenyan, Centre for Polish, Central and Eastern European Studies, School of International Studies, Sichuan University, China
About the author:
The project was developed at the initiative of the Middle East Political and Economic Institute, the Center for China Studies, and the EURISC Foundation, under the coordination of Mr. Flavius CABA-MARIA, Mr. Alexandru GEORGESCU, Mr. Liviu MUREȘAN, and Mr. Radu-Cristian MUȘETESCU.