SINGAPORE (May 7): A recent research report on China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) features a ­cover photo of a pair of worker’s boots covered in tar and, in the background, a large machine laying asphalt on a freeway.

It is a perfect summary of the way China’s BRI is most often viewed. The report asks if this is the world’s largest venture capital project and goes on to provide an answer filled with figures, estimates and projections. But in many ways, the report — and others like it — raises several important questions.

The first question that begs to be answered is: What are the funding mechanisms? There is a hidden assumption that this is all denominated in US dollars. The report dismisses the idea that BRI is intimately connected with the progress towards renminbi internationalisation. These reports often suggest that renminbi internationalisation is desirable but unlikely, and confidently conclude that these BRI projects will be primarily priced in US dollars. 

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