The Final Link: The Future of the Belt and Road Initiative in Europe
Q&A with Andrew Small
Unveiled by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a trans-continental connectivity undertaking that aims to facilitate greater trade, investment, and the exchange of technology and expertise between China and the other 84 countries involved. For China, successful BRI implementation in Europe brings obvious benefits: faster shipping routes for Chinese goods to Europe, the use of China’s over-capacity reserves to build infrastructure abroad, and the relocation of production facilities to low-cost Central and Eastern European countries. Furthermore, the European Union (EU) is China’s largest trading partner and leading source of foreign investment. Europe’s relation to Asia as a whole is similarly significant, as 35% of European total exports are sold to Asia, and four of Europe’s top ten trading partners are in Asia, with China as the second largest. It is in Europe’s interest to maintain unhindered trade flows to Asia and ensure China remains a reliable partner through the promotion of good governance principles within its processes. The Belt and Road Initiative has the potential to boost infrastructure in less-developed European nations and increase the efficiency of trade routes. However, China’s ambiguous intentions and lack of transparency have caused many European officials to have second thoughts.
The Project 2049 Institute and Andrew Small, senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund’s Asia Program, discussed China-European relations and the current standing of the Belt and Road Initiative in Europe.