China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is an ambitious global investment and infrastructure building scheme projected to better international connectivity and trade relations. This study first provides an overview of the BRI fundamentals. In response to the debate surrounding the true nature of the BRI, this study then attempts to distinguish the main motivations behind the initiative as elucidated by U.S. critics as well as the Chinese government. To assess the imperialistic nature of the BRI, part two of the study historsizes a key BRI project, the Pan-Asian Railway, in the context of past imperial rail endeavors. It is argued that the BRI is not a case of imperialism because military facilitation, one of the two main components of railway imperialism, is very limited. Moreover, countries join the BRI on their own terms and have the flexibility to opt out before serious commitment is made to project construction. The BRI, ultimately, should be seen as a framework, created by China, but collaboratively governed by other countries and multilateral organizations. More advanced economies in particular should participate in the BRI to not only take advantage BRI investment opportunities but also serve as a kind of counterbalance to the potential threat of China’s rising global preeminence.
Gummer, Megan, "China's Expanding High-Speed Empire: An Assessment of the Belt and Road Initiative" (2019). History Honors Papers. 46.
The views expressed in this paper are solely those of the author.