The Belt and Road Initiative has achieved remarkable progress in its first decade, with experts highlighting its contributions to infrastructure development, trade growth, and people-to-people connections between China and participating countries. As the program looks toward its next phase, scholars also offer recommendations to strengthen its impact and address challenges.
"The BRI has been purpose-driven and benefit-centric for the participating countries. It has made commendable strides in the first decade and is poised for greater achievements in the coming decade and beyond," said Lawrence Loh, director of the Centre for Governance and Sustainability at the National University of Singapore.
"The BRI has attained overall success in terms of investment and trade — it has also invigorated regions such as Central Asia as well as active countries in South and Southeast Asia," Loh said.
The initiative's tangible impact is most visible through expanding rail networks, according to Chris Rudd, deputy vice-chancellor of James Cook University Singapore. "The concept of trans-Asian rail predates BRI, but it is unthinkable that progress could be so rapid without Chinese capital and engineering," he said.
The BRI has provided regional partners with transformational opportunities for growth and quality of life, he said.
Beyond infrastructure, Christopher Bovis, professor of International Business Law at the University of Hull in the United Kingdom, highlighted the BRI's key role in China's economic transition, serving as "the most potent international trade instrument" and catalyzing private sector-led reforms. These trends will remain important in future years, he said.
"The transition toward this new approach is facilitated by the active participation of private equity firms and institutional investors. This emerging trend is poised to play a pivotal role in shaping investment decisions and outcomes, offering invaluable insights to developing countries," he said, adding the BRI has been the catalyst in boosting China's structural reforms and continuous opening up of its economy.
Looking ahead, experts propose avenues for maximizing BRI's development contributions.
There is an opportunity in the next stage of development of the BRI, with a shift to green technology and climate change mitigation. "This transition not only enhances our capacity in renewable energy and related sectors but also signals China's commitment to global citizenship and environmental stewardship on the world stage," said Rudd from James Cook University.
Bovis from the UK said China's commitment to sustainable development and emissions reduction is a significant aspect of the BRI. "Collaboration with emerging economies in combating climate change offers benefits such as climate-responsible production methods, compliance with international treaties, and global and regional leadership in emissions reduction," he added.