1 May 2016
The Belt and Road Initiative
It has been a year since the Chinese government unveiled the official action plan1 for the Belt and Road Initiative. With new developments emerging all the time and more information available, it is necessary to have an up-to-date wrap-up on how the Initiative has progressed. One common confusion is which countries are exactly included in the Initiative as the Chinese government has never announced an official list.
I. “China plus 64 Countries” along the Belt and Road
A Chinese report2, released by the China International Trade Institute in August 2015, identified 65 countries along the Belt and Road that will be participating in the Initiative (Exhibit 1).
Together, the countries along the Belt and Road will create an “economic cooperation area” that stretches from the Western Pacific to the Baltic Sea. According to our computation, these 65 countries jointly account for 62.3%, 30.0% and 24.0% of the world’s population, GDP and household consumption, respectively, today (Exhibit 2). For details of the computation, please refer to Exhibit 3.
II. For Other Countries: It is an Open Platform
It is worth noting that, the Initiative should be taken as an open platform for all parties that are willing to contribute to global connectivity. As the official action plan for the Belt and Road puts it, “the Initiative is open for cooperation. It covers, but is not limited to, the area of the ancient Silk Road. It is open to all countries, and international and regional organizations for engagement…” And Chinese President Xi Jinping has reiterated in many official occasions that the Initiative is an open, diversified and win-win project poised to bring huge opportunities for the development of China and many other countries. The Fung Business Intelligence Centre has in the past year collected a list of those other countries that have participated or have showed interest in the Initiative, through joining the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), developing transport infrastructure in collaboration with China, or through many other forms of cooperation. In this way, we have identified 48 such countries (Exhibit 4) which are not covered in the 65-country list above but are likely to become active participants in the Belt and Road in the future.
III. An Update on the AIIB
The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) was proposed by China in 2013, and the initiative of establishing the bank was launched in October 2014 when representatives from 22 countries signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). By the deadline of 31 March 2015 for submission of membership applications, 57 countries have submitted their applications and have become the founding members of the AIIB. (Exhibit 5) Of the 57 founding members, 37 are from Asia and Oceania, and the rest are from Europe, Africa and Latin America. As of 31 December 2015, all these 57 countries signed the Articles of Agreement that form the legal basis for the bank, marking the official establishment of the AIIB. Headquartered in Beijing, the AIIB was open for business on 16 January 2016.
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