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Northeast Asia

BRI 2.0: China adapts to post-Covid world

The coronavirus pandemic has unearthed a wave of anti-China sentiment across the world, impacting Beijing’s trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative. Will BRI have a future in a post-pandemic world? A veteran banker at HSBC says yes – but the shape it takes will be vastly different.

New CPC Leaders Meet Press
China’s president Xi Jinping says he wants broader participation in BRI.
Source: Getty Images

What happens when euphoria over Beijing’s $1 trillion Belt and Road Initiative, or BRI, turns to scepticism or disillusionment?

The mood swing against China in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic means there is far less enthusiasm for its big-ticket infrastructure projects. But take a look at what happened in Malaysia, where several BRI projects were signed and later sent back for renegotiation to reset the terms, showing how BRI projects can be accommodated in a new environment.

Since 2013, when China’s president Xi Jinping launched BRI and its transformational charter to reshape global infrastructure, Beijing’s state-owned banks have snared the lion’s share of its deals, while non-Chinese banks mostly scrambled for scraps.

Everything China does now on BRI is being analyzed and viewed through a geopolitical lens
Moritz Rudolf

That has rankled with many non-Chinese banks, and has been a persistent criticism directed at the wider BRI project.

BRI as sold by Beijing claims to be strictly business, and even altruistic.