The Belt & Road Initiative (BRI), unveiled in 2013 and hailed as China’s visionary answer to the Silk Road, aims to improve connectivity between 65 countries in Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Africa with an immense new logistics and transport network.
Possibly the largest infrastructure programme of the 21st century, the initiative will include new roads, railways, ports, airports and more in its two-pronged plan which comprises of the ‘Silk Road Economic Belt’ (the land route) and the ’21st Century Maritime Silk Road’ (the sea route). With increased super-continental trade flow, the aim is to stimulate economic growth across emerging Asian economies.
Since 2013, Chinese companies have spent over US$50 billion on the BRI. Despite the well-known risks associated with investing in emerging markets, there are positive indications that the project will flourish. Steps are being made in the right direction; the Chinese government has successfully gathered a number of banks and funds to back the BRI to facilitate its aspirations.
For the UK, the BRI’s rapid progression could not have come at a more opportune time, as highlighted by the first rail freight service departing from Yiwu in East China, to London. It arrived 20 days later in January 2017 following a 7,500 mile journey. The UK is expected to play a considerable role given its expertise in finance and education, as well as its well-established legal system.
In such times of uncertainty, many opportunities are to be gained across a range of industries along the BRI routes where English is the common language. The potential for the UK is immense: the BRI seeks to reach about 65% of the global community, which is estimated to cover 29% of global GDP and comprise of 25% in global goods and services.