The concept of the BRIThe BRI was initiated by President Xi Jinping in 2013 and defined two main developmental corridors: the westward overland “Silk Road Economic Belt”, connecting China with Central Asia and Europe, and the Southern “21st-Century Maritime Silk Road” running through South and Southeast Asia and reaching as far as Africa and Latin America. The primary goal of the initiative was to address the vast infrastructure demand of developing countries and meet this demand with China’s industrial overcapacities and global ambitions. Besides generating new infrastructure projects for Chinese companies and fostering trade and investment, China’s objective was to create its own global sphere of influence by aligning partner countries with China’s long-term strategic interests. As of April 2023, 149 countries had joined the BRI by signing Memorandums of Understanding.
In recent years, the Chinese government has tried to improve the shortcomings of the initial BRI concept and addressed problems with defaulting loans and unprofitable investments. At the same time, green development guidelines and plans for digital connectivity were included in the initiative. This underlines that the BRI is still seen as a significant economic and political tool by the Chinese government.