Descriptions of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) often center on China’s agency in other countries—its investments, loans, and even soft-power. However, Azerbaijan’s Baku International Sea Trade Port in Alat, a retroactively labeled “BRI” infrastructure project, is anything but centrally controlled by China.
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The CSIS Africa Program assessed 46 African ports with financial, construction, or operational involvement by Chinese entities to identify potential threats to African sovereignty and U.S. strategic interests in the region.
The signing of an MoU during a March 22-24 by Chinese president Xi Jinping has made Italy the first G7 nation to join China’s sprawling Belt and Road Initiative, but Rome will be wise to devote sustained long-term resources to the negotiation, implementation, and follow-up of whatever comes out of these memoranda to avoid the mistakes of other BRI partners.
With an eye toward illuminating current issues, this report draws from examples throughout history of how states use foreign infrastructure to advance strategic objectives. It shows how China is updating and exercising tactics used by Western powers during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and how these issues, and the strategic implications they carry, are likely to intensify in the coming years.
Five years ago, Chinese president Xi Jinping announced the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a trillion-dollar plan that aims to connect more than 70 countries via an overland “belt” and a maritime “road.” On October 1, the CSIS Reconnecting Asia Project hosted a half-day conference examining China’s BRI, including the challenges, risks, and opportunities it poses for the United States.