The Belt and Road

China’s flagship initiative and its implications for the global economy

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Chatham House London

In the lead-up to the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in autumn 2017, the inaugural Chatham House ‘Belt and Road’ conference will assess the current shape and form of China’s flagship initiative to strengthen physical, economic and financial connectivity between China and countries in Asia, as well as with Europe and Africa, in the context of current geopolitical and economic developments.

Announced in 2013, the ‘Belt and Road’ remains broadly defined as a reference framework to develop more specific ad hoc policy initiatives. It supports investment into a wide variety of infrastructure, including road, rail, port, energy and air traffic projects, and channels financial and non-financial resources into the ‘Silk Road Economic Belt’, the ancient Silk Road that linked China to Europe and into the ‘21st Century Maritime Silk Road’, a network of maritime trade routes that connect South and Southeast Asia to Africa and Europe.

This conference will examine the evolving framework of the ‘Belt and Road’ including political and strategic considerations for its future, what it means for countries in its intended sphere, and the role of governments, international institutions, developers and investors in realizing its potential.

Discussions will address topics including:

  • ‘Belt and Road’ in the context of global political developments and China’s geo-economic priorities;
  • Policy, perceptions and responses in Europe and other countries along the routes; and
  • Securing international funding and engaging businesses to scale up project investment.

The Chatham House Rule 
To enable as open a debate as possible, this conference will be held under the Chatham House Rule.


Pricing and booking information 

Register by Friday 14 July 2017 to benefit from the early booking rate.

Ways to book:

  1. Online: Click here to complete the online registration form
  2. Phone: Call Dora Rencoret on +44 (0)20 7957 5727
  3. Email / Post: Download a PDF registration form, complete and return to Charlotte Laycock via email or post: Chatham House, 10 St. James’s Square, London, SW1Y 4LE 


Partners and major corporate members  
All organizations£495£595
Standard corporate members  
Commercial organizations£1,085£1,180
Government departments£620£700
NGOs and academics£380£460
Commercial organizations£1,190£1,295
Government departments£680£750
NGOs and academics£440


Your delegate pass includes:

  • Conference attendance
  • Documentation
  • Lunch and refreshments

Travel and accommodation are not included. View a list of recommended hotels here.

Monday 16 October

Session One | What is the Belt and Road?

While the ‘Belt and Road’ was announced to great fanfare in 2013, China’s political and economic rationales for developing the initiative remain broadly defined. Motivations span from the promotion of outward investment by Chinese firms and increasing trade with other emerging ‘Silk Road’ economies to providing an outlet for excess industrial and investment capacity for Chinese firms and financial institutions, to geopolitical reasons - China’s response to the Obama administration’s ‘pivot to Asia’, and a way of increasing China’s national prestige and soft power. The initiative may also be a means to develop economic and financial links between China and other countries in Asia including through greater use of their currency; setting international standards and norms for trade in the region. This session will examine what is currently known about the ‘Belt and Road’ and its role in China’s geo-economic and political strategy. 

  • How does the ‘Belt and Road’ relate to the broader development of Chinese foreign policy during a period of growing geopolitical uncertainty and change?
  •  To what extent is the initiative an attempt at increasing trade and investment in the host countries, and to what extent will China prioritize non-economic ambitions such as power projection and political influence in Central Asia?

Session Two | Infrastructure policy and financing in developing economies

This session will look at how the ‘Belt and Road’ initiative fits into other current and recent attempts to finance infrastructure investment in developing economies in its intended sphere. There is currently a gap of roughly $1 trillion from present funding levels to properly meet the infrastructure funding needs of these economies. Despite engagement from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), Central and East Asia remain among the most significant regions constituting this gap. China has taken significant steps to address this, through the chartering of two development banks, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the New Development Bank (NDB), as well as more ad hoc measures, which also have complementary goals to the ‘Belt and Road’.

  • What is the prevailing political appetite for ‘Belt and Road’ projects in host countries along the ‘New Silk Road’ and ‘Maritime Belt’? Can the pursuit of economic goals overcome potential political barriers to project development?
  • To what extent is there a risk that political expediency, rather than commercial logic, will affect decisions on ‘Belt and Road’ infrastructure projects in developing economies? What reassurances can investors, both Chinese and international, seek to help facilitate project investment? Will the Chinese government or host country governments be able to provide such assurances?
  • How do institutions such as the AIIB and NDB fit into the financing strategy for ‘Belt and Road’ projects?
  • How successful have existing multilateral development institutions such as the EBRD, ADB, World Bank and others operating in the region of the ‘Belt and Road’ been in financing infrastructure thus far? Are there any lessons that China can learn from their activities or gaps in their activities that China would be well-placed to fill?

Session Three | International views on the Belt and Road: perceptions, realities and challenges

This session will assess how the ‘Belt and Road’ is currently being perceived and engaged with by Western governments and international institutions. It will also examine what steps are being considered by these actors that might facilitate or impede international cooperation with China in the area of infrastructure financing and investment.

  • What does ‘Belt and Road’ mean for Europe? How can European countries establish closer economic ties with China? How will the EU’s rules-based approach shape engagement and project cooperation between China and EU member states?
  • To what extent have national-level governments in Europe engaged with ‘Belt and Road’ projects thus far? Are regional institutions and local governments better placed to pursue opportunities?
  • In the UK, post-Brexit will there be a strategy for greater investment between the UK and China and will this extend to co-financing projects in other developing countries, or will the impetus to scale up investment need to come from the business community?
  • What is the role of London in financing the ‘Belt and Road’ initiative?
  • How will cooperation in the funding of infrastructure financing in Asia be perceived in the US by the current presidential administration? What are President Trump’s likely political and economic responses?

Session Four | Engaging business: scaling up investment and project cooperation

China has expressed an interest in developing the ‘Belt and Road’ as a framework for international investment, where Western corporates and investors can partner with Chinese institutions to deliver projects. Given the large size of the initiative, China will need significant international funding commitments to successfully develop these projects. This session will examine what steps have already been taken in that direction, how such partnerships could be structured, and what obstacles will have to be overcome by any outside investors.

  • What is the status of ‘Belt and Road’ projects to date and what lessons can be learned from them? Have they received sufficient policy support from the Chinese and local governments to assure future investors?
  • To what extent can the ‘Belt and Road’ address problems commonly encountered by project financing, such as long payback periods for investors, political risks and construction delays? Can risks unique to financing infrastructure in developing countries be successfully overcome?
  • Will China’s ambitions for the ‘Belt and Road’ deliver on the scale that is envisaged, making a macroeconomic difference for China and plugging global infrastructure investment gaps? How will the levels of financing required for ‘Belt and Road’ ventures affect demand for the renminbi in international financial centres? Which financial centres are best placed to become key offshore markets for the renminbi?
  • Will cooperation with Western firms in delivering the ‘Belt and Road’ support the development of common practices for the financing and delivery of infrastructure projects worldwide? What will this mean for Chinese firms’ adoption of international financial accounting and reporting standards? What will this mean for developing a universally accepted set of green financing principles for infrastructure?
  • How can the relationship between private financing, existing multilateral development banks, and the Chinese government best be managed and coordinated to maximize the amount of financing available? Can this sort of cooperation be a vehicle to expand the number of bankable projects, rather than simply crowding out private financing on a limited number of bankable projects which would otherwise still be funded? 

17:30 End of conference and reception hosted by Chatham House

© The Royal Institute of International Affairs 2017



If you are interested in becoming a sponsor for this event, please contact
Kamil Hussain on +44 (0) 20 7314 2783

Media partners

If you are interested in becoming a media partner for this event, please contact
Amy Smith on +44 (0)20 7957 5755


Chatham House
10 St James's Square
[email protected]

Telephone: +44 (0)20 7314 2785
Fax: +44 (0)20 7957 5710

If you wish to book the venue for your own event please phone +44 (0)20 7314 2764

The nearest tube station is Piccadilly Circus which is on the Piccadilly and the Bakerloo Underground lines. From Piccadilly follow Regent Street southwards towards Pall Mall and take the first road on the right called Jermyn Street. Duke of York Street is the second road on the left and leads to St James's Square. Chatham House is immediately on your right.


Although we cannot book accommodation for delegates, we have arranged a reduced rate at some nearby hotels, where you can book your own accommodation. Please inform the hotel that you will be attending a conference at Chatham House (The Royal Institute of International Affairs) to qualify for the Institute's reduced rate.

Please note all rates are subject to availability.

Flemings Mayfair
Half Moon Street
London - W1J 7BH

Tel: + 44 (0)20 7499 2964
Fax: + 44 (0)20 7499 1817

Standard Single from £195 + VAT

The Cavendish London
81 Jermyn Street
London - SW1Y 6JF

Tel: + 44 (0)20 7930 2111
Fax: + 44 (0)20 7839 2125

Standard Single £205 + VAT

Book The Cavendish online

The Stafford London 
St James's Place
London - SW1A 1NJ

Tel: 020 7518 1125
Fax: 020 7493 7121

Standard Single £235 +VAT

The Savoy London
London - WC2R 0EU

Tel: 020 7836 4343
Fax: 020 7240 6040 

Standard Single £250 +VAT

Press registration

This conference will be held under the Chatham House Rule. Information for journalists.

Press can request a press pass.