European versus American Perspectives on the Belt and Road Initiative

Published in China & World Economy

March 29, 2020

China has started to deploy its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in the European Union (EU), and the EU in turn has regional and global interests that intersect with the BRI’s scope. Subject to future adjustments of China’s BRI strategy, the initiative’s potential contribution to the EU requirements for infrastructure development could be significant, even though its modalities in the EU are inevitably different from those in countries that are poorer or have more difficult financial market access. The EU’s attitude to the BRI, however, has not yet fully coalesced. Despite superficial similarities in public discourses, the EU has a profoundly distinct perspective from that of the US on the BRI, and more generally on the rise of China and its growing global influence. For the EU, the BRI generates challenges but also potential benefits. The EU should improve its ability to welcome sensible BRI projects, including through the adoption of greater reform of screening frameworks for foreign direct investment. More generally, the EU should enhance its ability to define policies independent of the US on China and the challenges resulting from China’s rise. China should also make further efforts to foster a constructive relationship with the EU.