By Chris Adams

The Belt and Road Initiative was unveiled in 2013 by Chinese leaders as an ambitious economic development and infrastructure project. By 2017, it had been cemented in the Chinese constitution.

In that short time, it has become China’s most significant international trade action since the nation joined the World Trade Organization in 2001. It may be one of the most successful global trade initiatives of the 21st century.

But what exactly is it?

In a session with National Press Foundation fellows, Julien Chaisse of City University of Hong Kong laid out the history of the initiative, and detailed its path forward.

The Belt and Road Initiative – originally dubbed “One Belt, One Road” – is an attempt to revive the old Silk Road that used to move products from China to Western Europe, going through Central Asia. China is investing in different countries along the road; some of those countries are eager for China’s investment, while others are more skeptical. More than 100 nations could play a part in it.

Chaisse (Twitter, Amazon page) counseled some caution: “The BRI is an ambition, more than something that has delivered tangible results. We are far from that.”

Chaisse reviewed the interactions with some countries toward the Belt and Road Initiative. India, the second-most populous country in the world, is wary about it, despite being included as a potential participant.

“Yes, India is on the list,” Chaisse said. “Yes, China has been trying to include India, because you can see that not including India would be a big mistake. But India has continually displayed concerned and reluctance to be a part of the BRI.”