Demystifying the Belt and Road Initiative

A Clarification of its Key Features, Objectives and Impacts

by Rafiq Dossani, Jennifer Bouey, Keren Zhu

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解密一带一路倡议: 澄清其主要特征、目标和影响

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This report describes the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which is a transcontinental infrastructure plan conceptualized in China and implemented in more than 100 partner countries, primarily emerging economies. The BRI primarily promotes the building of physical infrastructure that will connect the partner countries globally.

Despite its needs-based approach, the BRI has been widely criticized for creating undesirable effects, such as increasing partner countries' economic dependence on China through debt-trap lending. The authors of this report identify and explain what makes the BRI different from traditional development finance initiatives and provide a framework to assess the critiques. They also discuss the available evidence on the BRI's effects and describe the implications for policymakers who are trying to determine how to assess and leverage the BRI.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One


  • Chapter Two

    The Defining Characteristics of the BRI

  • Chapter Three

    Assessing the BRI and Its Externalities

  • Chapter Four

    Empirical Evidence of the BRI’s Impacts and Externalities

  • Chapter Five

    Implications and Recommendations for Policymakers

  • Appendix A

    The Five Pillars of the BRI

  • Appendix B

    Objectives of the Marshall Plan

Funding for this independent research was provided by the generous contributions of the RAND Social and Economic Well-Being Advisory Board and the RAND Center for Asia Pacific Policy (CAPP) Advisory Board. This research was conducted jointly within RAND Social and Economic Well-Being and the RAND Center for Asia Pacific Policy.

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