Stories by Jonathan Hillman

Expert Voices

Belt and Road Forum a chance for Xi to address initiative's critics

nighttime view of Belt and Road Forum venue in Beijing
The Sunrise East Kempinski Hotel in Beijing, where the Belt and Road Forum is being held April 25–27. Photo: Xinhua/Zhang Yuwei via Getty Images

On Thursday Chinese President Xi Jinping will welcome leaders from 37 countries and delegates from over 150 countries at the second Belt and Road Forum in Beijing — an opportunity to promote the initiative's successes and address issues raised by its critics.

The big picture: High-profile projects in Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Montenegro and elsewhere have undercut the Belt and Road Initiative's promise to deliver "win-win" outcomes, appearing to benefit China at the expense of its partners. Xi will be aiming to repair the damage these scandals have done to the BRI brand.

Expert Voices

As China expands Belt and Road in Europe, its promise could diminish

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Croatia'd Andrej Plenkovic on a bridge in the rain
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic at the construction site of a Chinese-funded bridge in southern Croatia on April 11, 2019. Photo: Xinhua/Huang Jingwen via Getty Images

Greece joined China’s club of Central and Eastern European countries during the group’s meeting in Croatia Friday, in another symbolic victory for the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) just weeks after China signed a memorandum of understanding with Italy.

The big picture: China has long insisted that this grouping, now the “17+1” format, will not undermine the European Union. But it has adopted very different investment strategies in EU and non–EU countries.

Expert Voices

U.S. handwringing overplays importance of Belt and Road agreements

Xi Jinping and his wife deboarding their flight in Italy
China's President Xi Jinping and his wife, Peng Liyuan, at Rome's Fiumicino airport on March 21, 2019. Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP/Getty Images

Xi Jinping arrived in Italy today to sign a memorandum of understanding for the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a development that has already drawn criticism from the U.S.

The big picture: Washington’s frustration is understandable, but it plays right into Beijing’s hand. Publicly criticizing Italy’s decision gives unwarranted weight to vague documents that, like the BRI itself, overpromise and underdeliver.