(Apr 29): Over the next few days, China’s President Xi Jinping is hosting a global Belt and Road Initiative conference in Beijing for political and business leaders. The BRI captures a number of policy initiatives such as infrastructure builds, social objectives, poverty alleviation, trade facilitation, capital market reform and the development of IT and artificial intelligence. 

The BRI represents the transformation of China from a regional power into a global one. Many argue that China is not setting out to destroy the Western-led world order, although this is the view often adopted by the US and some of its allies. The initiatives in the areas of finance, currency, trade and security are meant to provide China with alternatives and so reduce its dependency on the current order without lessening its support for the order. However, it remains clear that China wants to see the international order adjusted in a way that allows it to have a degree of influence that reflects its economic position. The BRI is part of this process.

This is not a repeat of the Cold War with the Soviet Union because even at its height, the Soviet Union could not lay claim to any significant economic clout. It was a military state that struggled to feed its own people. China is a global economic power and its attention is primarily focused on trade relationships.

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