Deciphering China’s Belt and Road Initiative


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The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a central theme of China’s foreign policy, particularly in developing regions like Africa, where it’s linked to billions of dollars of infrastructure development. But when you ask Chinese officials “What exactly is the BRI?,” no one really seems to have a definitive answer.

It’s a development agenda, a foreign policy initiative, a security strategy, and much more, all mixed together.

While it may seem counterintuitive, that ambiguity and confusion are actually intentional, according to Jonathan E. Hillman, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the author of the new book The Emperor’s New Road: China and the Project of the Century. Jonathan joins Eric and Cobus to discuss his research on the BRI and why it embodies China’s push for “incremental imperialism.”