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Invasive species could hitch a ride along China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), according to a new study. The BRI is intended to accelerate trade and transportation among more than 80 countries, including some of the world’s most biodiverse areas. Examining those areas, researchers identified “invasion hotspots,” which are especially vulnerable to non-native species, and found that a majority of them are within the BRI’s six proposed economic corridors.

The Colombo Port City, built on land reclaimed from the Indian Ocean and funded with $1.4 billion in Chinese investment, in Sri Lanka. Photo: Paula Bronstein via Getty Images

Why it matters: It’s a reminder that greater connectivity comes with unintended consequences. The ancient “Silk Road,” after all, carried not only goods and ideas, but also the plague. If the BRI succeeds in supercharging global connectivity, it will almost certainly increase the risk of pandemics, drug and wildlife trafficking, and other dangerous flows.

Yes, but: The good news is that the BRI is still in its early stages. Its six corridors were easy to announce as concepts, but they have been incredibly difficult to build and coordinate in practice. Many BRI maps are more fiction than reality at this point.

The upside is that China and countries participating in the BRI can still make prevention and early detection of unwanted flows, especially health threats, a bigger priority. They could share more information about where projects are being planned, more deeply integrate health and environmental experts in the planning process, and work with the World Health Organization to improve early detection systems.

The bottom line: The economic benefits of greater connectivity are well-documented: Countries that have more connections to global flows grow by up to 40% more than less-connected countries. While there’s no question the world needs more infrastructure, it would be a mistake to ignore the risks that new connections might bring.

Jonathan Hillman is director of the Reconnecting Asia Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Go deeper: The invasive species threat from the BRI

Go deeper

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: WHO: AstraZeneca vaccine must be evaluated on "more than a press release."
  2. Politics: McConnell temporarily halts in-person lunches for GOP caucus.
  3. Economy: Safety nets to disappear in DecemberAmazon hires 1,400 workers a day throughout pandemic.
  4. Education: U.S. public school enrollment drops as pandemic persists.
  5. Cities: Surge in cases forces San Francisco to impose curfew — Los Angeles County issues stay-at-home order, limits gatherings.
  6. Sports: NFL bans in-person team activities Monday, Tuesday due to COVID-19 surge — NBA announces new coronavirus protocols.
  7. World: London police arrest more than 150 during anti-lockdown protests — Thailand, Philippines sign deal with AstraZeneca for vaccine.

Tony Hsieh, longtime Zappos CEO, dies at 46

Tony Hsieh. Photo: FilmMagic/FilmMagic

Tony Hsieh, the longtime ex-chief executive of Zappos, died on Friday after being injured in a house fire, his lawyer told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He was 46.

The big picture: Hsieh was known for his unique approach to management, and following the 2008 recession his ongoing investment and efforts to revitalize the downtown Las Vegas area.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
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The unicorn stampede is coming

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Airbnb and DoorDash plan to go public in the next few weeks, capping off a very busy year for IPOs.

What's next: You ain't seen nothing yet.