Impact Story

Bringing much-needed rigour to debates on China’s Belt and Road Initiative

Published on 9 July 2019

China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is the world’s largest infrastructure plan with the potential to accelerate progress towards global sustainability. Whether it can live up to this promise is the subject of intense, often polarised debate. Some point to the BRI’s alignment to the Global Goals; others argue that it poses considerable social, economic, environmental, political and security risks. Building on IDS’ established record of work with its Centre for Rising Powers and Global Development, the Institute is at the forefront of efforts to produce a strong evidence base to assess the realities of the BRI’s impact on development.

‘A small fishing boat sails past cranes and containers waiting to be exported at the port.’ © Mark Henley/Panos Pictures

High-level global participation

At the heart of IDS’ activities is the need to understand China’s rapidly evolving role on the world stage and in international development. It was a point underlined by IDS Director Melissa Leach in her speech at a Wilton Park event in March 2019. The high-level event was supported by DFID and IDS. Around 60 senior financial and sustainable development experts attended alongside government officials from the UK, China and BRI countries such as Pakistan and Myanmar. Topics debated included how the BRI contributes to sustainable development impacts; handling risk; and strengthening partnerships.

IDS has also worked with partners such as the Centre for International Knowledge on Development in China on a series of publications that look at BRI-related issues in detail. These were produced under the K4D programme, based at IDS and funded by DFID.

Continuing this work, IDS will be the anchor institute for the China International Development Research Network (CIDRN), aiming to improve international development policy effectiveness of China and the UK through quality research and policy processes.

Further events involving IDS include a debate at the UK parliament, and the launch of the Belt and Road Studies Network, with an address by Professor Leach calling for global think tanks to work together to generate much-needed evidence on BRI.


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