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Asia Current Affairs Forum (ACAF): China’s Belt and Road Initiative: Regional Responses and Implications

Tuesday 6 March 2018
Café Dudok
Hofweg 1-a
2511 AA Den Haag

China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has received a great deal of attention since it was first announced in a speech by President Xi Jinping in autumn 2013. With projects totaling as much as $900 billion, covering 60 countries, 4 billion people and approximately one-third of global GDP, China’s BRI has the potential to radically transform the East Asian region.

For the most part, discussions about the BRI have concentrated on China’s intentions and ability to follow through on its rhetoric. A broader discussion of what the BRI means for the East Asian region and beyond needs to take place. This forum examines what the various responses to the BRI have been and what the implications of the BRI are for the Asian region and beyond.

In Southeast Asia, the BRI has been welcomed by many states, eager to benefit from China’s largesse. Numerous policymakers and media outlets have decried how China has bought off these states with development financing in order to secure its national interests, particularly in the South China Sea. At the same time, adding the BRI to the already existing development efforts of the World Bank and Asia Development Bank among others may leave states being spoilt for choice. Are smaller states able to bargain one source of development funding off against another to secure the best deal or does the BRI constrain their foreign policy options?

Not all states have welcomed the BRI. India boycotted the BRI summit in May 2017, arguing that a Chinese sponsored project would undermine its sovereignty. Until recently, Japan has also been hesitant to sign up to the BRI, due to concerns about China’s rise leading to a decline in Japan’s regional influence. For its part, the European Union (EU) appears unsure how to respond to the BRI; seemingly caught between the opportunities that might arise from the BRI and a hesitancy to become involved in an alternative approach to development. What role can states, like India and Japan, or the EU play in the development of the BRI and is it in their interests to join?


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