Politics and International Relations
China’s Belt & Road Initiative has gone through several stages since it was first introduced in 2013. BRI had unclear objectives in 2013. Since then various domestic and governmental actors have vied to expand BRI’s goals and purposes, moving it from a project for building infrastructure overseas to defining BRI as an alternative world order. Rhetoric and hubris mixed with numerous nontransparent megaprojects led to BRI skepticism among host countries and criticism of China’s debt diplomacy. Several projects threw host countries such as Sri Lanka and Pakistan into heavy debt. As BRI skepticism grew, Beijing adjusted its policies.
Explaining change in China’s BRI requires an analytical focus that includes both domestic factors and international factors. From 2013 to 2018, BRI has adjusted and adapted. However, there are several rigidities that continue due to domestic sources of Chinese foreign policy and resist being responsive to host countries’ critiques. This paper will examine both domestic and international factors in shaping China’s Belt and Road Initiative.