Conference in Kunshan: Environmental, economic and international-relations aspects of the Belt and Road Initiative

Event: Regional and International Affairs

China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has sparked a flurry of activity in political, business and academic circles in the last few years. The wide range of affected policy domains and the interdisciplinary challenges that the BRI poses to policy-makers and researchers make it important to engage with it in a cross-cutting way.

Duke Kunshan University (DKU) convened two events and brought together leading scholars and practitioners from China, the USA, Europe and Central Asia to analyze the environmental, economic, geostrategic, social and legal dimensions of large-scale infrastructure investment such as BRI.

Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Shanghai Representative Office contributed to these events by inviting experts from Germany and China and by hosting a panel discussion on the topic of the geo-political dimension of the BRI, particularly in the context of Sino-European relations.

Besides academics, there were also some representatives from China’s central-level National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) among the participants, explaining the aims and mechanisms of the BRI in considerable detail, and allowing the foreign participants to gain a direct impression of the BRI vision from the perspective of the Chinese leadership.

The importance of letting other countries and international institutions participate in a meaningful way in the BRI, including by adopting internationally-recognized standards and practices, was mentioned by several participants. While this could perhaps be costly, it could also generate significant goodwill and trust, in developing and developed countries. The sprawling nature of the BRI made this harder however, some argued, as it was hard to gauge what is and what is not part of the BRI, leading to a proliferation of opinions, fears and hopes on the BRI.

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