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Shirley Yu – The Belt and Road Initiative: A Discussion of China’s Vision and Strategy
February 25, 2019 @ 12:00 pm - 1:15 pm
Speaker: Shirley Yu, Harvard Kennedy School’s Ash Center Fellow
Moderator: Anthony Saich, Ash Center Director, Daewoo Professor of International Affairs
The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the signature foreign policy by Xi Jinping has served as China’s grand strategy since 2013, when the idea first arose, and it will remain relevant until around 2050, when China is predicted to reach “modernity.” If successfully carried out, by the second half of the Century, the ambition is that China would return to its ancient Middle Kingdom status as the center of all nations, equivalent to a Pax-Sinica.
The BRI is conceptualized as a two-pronged strategy. One is “to maximize engagement with China’s economic growth and power,” and the other is to build a “community of common destiny for humanity.” One vision is clearly economic, and the other, political. The success of the BRI is contingent upon the cohesion and the achievement of both visions in its entirety. The first vision can be empirically achievable. The prevalence of authoritarianism and flawed democracies in the BRI region essentially provides China with the ideal political incubator to expand its model of authoritarian capitalism. The second BRI vision, a world community built upon a moral order prescribed by Confucianism and communism, is challenging and important to elucidate by the liberal West, as this set of defining values will illuminate the fundamental systemic challenges to liberal market capitalism and liberal political order. This talk aims to demystify the two-pronged BRI strategy and its sustainability.