As the most crucial Chinese Grand Strategy in the 21st Century, the Belt & Road Initiative has reached its seventh year since its inception in 2013.
Although its implementation has continued to grow, its challenges are promiscuously significant for the Chinese central government.
Perhaps the biggest setback among all, there have been lingering perceptions around the world that the Belt & Road Initiative is a tool for Beijing to secure strategic hotspots or control other countries through the vicious “debt trap diplomacy”, as alleged by the Western media at large.
In lieu of the sixth anniversary of the Belt & Road Initiative, Chinese think tank Anbound published its own research report that revisited the initiative prior to President Xi Jinping’s articulations of its “Belt” & “Road” components in September and October 2013 respectively.
Not only did it provide the full background of the Belt & Road Initiative, the report also tried to answer what the world has been overlooking in respective assessments of the Chinese initiative.
Instead of acceding to the high-politics discourse on Beijing’s BRI, there are two prevailing circumstances that many pundits and China observers have
failed to recognise but nonetheless were what led to the formation of the grand initiative.
First, the BRI should be understood as part of the extension and solution to China’s domestic economic situations after 2008. As outlined in an Anbound report, the golden age of Chinese economy from 2000 to 2008, was unsustainable from the start.
From that year onwards, China no longer experienced spectacular trade and investment growth and, instead, entered a long period of stagflation. This questioned the need for China to change its previous “high trade plus investment” development model and adopt a new approach for sustainable economic growth.
At the same time, the development level between the eastern (coastal) and western (hinterland) provinces was still largely imbalanced despite all-round support.
While the Great Western Development Strategy (launched in 1999) was overwhelmed with great potential in developing the western heartland, it still fell short of achieving its initial goals of enlarging the economic size of these faraway provinces.