“The world’s biggest infrastructure and connectivity project”, “building a community of common destiny”, “environmentally destructive”, or just a “public relations spin”? These headlines have all been used to describe the Chinese-led Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

This Friends of the Earth Asia Pacific briefing paper explores the big questions and examines the initiative in more detail:

  • What is the Belt Road Initiative;
  • Why the Belt Road Initiative;
  • Who is funding, implementing and campaigning on the Belt Road Initiative;
  • How to address the Belt Road Initiative.

The Belt Road Initiative is a reflection of China’s domestic and foreign interests as it ascends on the international stage to become a major global, political and economic power. In just a few years, the neoliberal world order has been challenged by its own contradictions and nationalistic governments.

Impacts on climate, food and forests

The briefing highlights the environmental challenges of the Belt Road Initiative, including insufficient human rights policies, obstacles to public participation and weak local safeguards. BRI is intended to export several energy related technologies, most notably large hydropower, electricity transmission and coal technology, often undermining climate action. The BRI Agricultural Cooperation Strategy encourages expansion of large Chinese agribusiness to Asian countries. China also imports significant amounts of food products and therefore supports large scale national agribusiness development in other countries. These trends and policy objectives work against Friends of the Earth International’s vision of food sovereignty and agroecology. The BRI is set to have significant impacts on forests and biodiversity through the funding of several mega projects.

Read more on the Friends of the Earth Asia Pacific website.