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Belt and road: a game changer?

Published on May 31, 2018   27 min
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Welcome to this talk on the Belt and Road Initiative, which was announced by the Chinese President, Xi Jinping, during a state visit to Kazakhstan in 2013. I will discuss the potential of this initiative to become, what I think, a real game changer in international economic and political affairs. My name is Alessia Amighini, co-heading the Asia Center at the Italian Institute for International Political Studies. I'm also an Associate Professor of Economic Policy at the University of Eastern Piemonte and Catholic University in Milan.
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The Belt and Road is a kind of modern silk road, a commitment by the Chinese government to reduce bottlenecks to trade between, mainly, Europe and Asia, by improving and building new networks of various types of connectivity across Central, Western and South Asia. It was originally labeled One-Belt-One-Road, OBOR, from the Chinese yi dai yi lu, and has soon become the centerpiece of China's economic diplomacy and diplomacy to corp. The Belt and Road or the New Silk Road is much broader than the ancient Silk Road, which dates back to the Han dynasty, ruled China between around 200 years before Christ and 220 years after Christ. In fact, the ancient Silk Road was connecting Xi'an, a city in the center of China, to Rome, mainly through southern routes crossing Iran and Turkey. Today, the New Silk Road or Belt and Road, as it is called, should also cross Central Asia, Russia, Eastern Europe, but also part of the Middle East and East and North Africa to finally reach Western and Northern Europe. So, it is much bigger in scope than the ancient Silk Road. It is called initiative and the Chinese government has invariably insisted that it is a major initiative which is open and inclusive to up to 64 countries, except China. It is not a strategy. It is not a strategy aimed at expanding Chinese influence on other areas and regions. It is not even a sort of Marshall Plan for Central Asia as many scholars and commentators understood soon after it was launched.