The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is one of the most transformative stories in Asian business right now. It’s both a diplomatic and economic programme that focuses on transforming regional trade through a network of railways, ports, highways and pipelines.
The BRI is an audacious project encompassing more than 60 per cent of the world’s population and a third of its gross domestic product in a new world order, with China at the helm.1 There’s hope that with the right investment, an open economy and inclusive free trade, this vast region’s economic potential can be unlocked.2
“This is being hailed by China’s authorities as the project of the century3 and the numbers are staggering. Potentially USD4 trillion4 of infrastructure investment will be needed to link China, Europe and most of the countries in between, by land and sea. This will boost cross-border capital trade flows in the process,” explains Giorgio Gamba, Managing Director, Head of Public Sector, Asia-Pacific at HSBC.
China hopes that a globalised economic agenda5 for this initiative will spark greater development along a sprawling network of proposed trading corridors from Pakistan to Myanmar, Kazakhstan to Singapore radiating out along ancient maritime and overland routes.
“It is already easily the largest infrastructure development programme in the world today and for our generation,” stated Thomas Lembong, Chairman of the Indonesia Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM) at the recent HSBC Financial Institutions Conference in Shanghai.
Projects are now being built under the auspices of China’s BRI, such as the USD4 billion railway connecting the Kenyan capital of Nairobi with the Indian Ocean port of Mombasa.6 Indonesia’s first high-speed rail link between the capital, Jakarta, and the Javanese city of Bandung, with a comparable price tag, has also been given the go-ahead.7
“This is a natural extension of the Chinese developing their own infrastructure. If you’ve built infrastructure to the edge of your country, the best thing you can do to connect with