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 China’s geo-economic priorities and global political developments;
  • Regulatory, financial stability and governance issues for the ‘Belt and Road’;
  • Developing large infrastructure projects, mobilizing investment and enabling technology transfers;
  • Innovation in project finance in terms of instruments, currencies and markets.

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


Monday 16 October

Session One | The Belt and Road: building new economic, trade and financial connections

Since the launch of the ‘Belt and Road’ in 2013, China’s political and economic blueprint for developing the initiative has been 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. This session will focus on the potential for disruption of existing trade and financial relations and how the ‘Belt and Road’ Initiative can create new economic, business and geopolitical dynamics in the region.

Session Two | Infrastructure investment and China’s changing role in development finance

There is currently a gap of roughly $1 trillion from present funding levels to properly meet the infrastructure funding needs of countries in the intended sphere of the ‘Belt and Road’. 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’.

  • ‘Belt and Road’ projects in host countries along the ‘New Silk Road’ and ‘Maritime Belt’
  • Complementarity and rivalry among development banks: the pros and cons of multilateral development finance versus bilateral development finance
  • The role of markets – including international financial centres like London - in large infrastructure projects
  • Who needs to borrow and who needs to lend: developing a corporate bond market in the region

Session Three | International engagement: perceptions, realities, risks, and project challenges

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

  • How does the ‘Belt and Road’ Initiative fit into Europe’s strategic and economic interests?
  • In what ways will the EU’s rules-based system – on issues including environment sustainability and project transparency – affect prospects for engagement with China on ’Belt and Road’ projects?
  • How have European governments engaged with ‘Belt and Road’ projects thus far? What is the extent of divergence in the degrees of interest demonstrated by EU member states in the initiative?
  • Post-Brexit, how will the UK government’s strategy for economic engagement with China affect investment into ‘Belt and Road’ projects? 
  • How does the ‘Belt and Road’ fit in terms of the US-China relationship? Do recent statements suggest a greater potential for US involvement in ‘Belt and Road’ projects?

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? 
  • To what extent can the ‘Belt and Road’ address problems commonly encountered by project financing, including long payback periods for investors, political risks and construction delays? How can issues relating to project risks and risk pricing be ameliorated and addressed? Can risks unique to financing infrastructure in developing countries be successfully overcome?
  • 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?
  • What will cooperation with Western firms on ‘Belt and Road’ projects mean for international financial accounting and reporting standards? What will it mean for developing standards on green financing for infrastructure projects?
  • How can the relationship between private financing, existing multilateral development banks, and the Chinese government be managed to maximize the amount of financing available? Can this sort of cooperation be a vehicle to expand the number of bankable projects, rather than risk crowding out private financing on bankable projects which may otherwise still be funded? 

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

© The Royal Institute of International Affairs 2017



Dr Huw McKay to speak at the Chatham House Belt and Road conference

Dr Huw McKay

Vice President, Market Analysis & Economics, BHP

Yasuyuki Sawada, Chief Economist and Director General, Economic Research and Regional Cooperation Department, Asian Development Bank

Yasuyuki Sawada

Chief Economist and Director General, Economic Research and Regional Cooperation Department, Asian Development Bank

Tim Summers to speak at the Chatham House conference on The Belt and Road

Tim Summers

Senior Consulting Fellow, Asia Programme, Chatham House

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.


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

Supporting partners

China-Britain Business Council to partner with Chatham House on the Belt and Road conference

Media partners

Foreign Affairs

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
13 Half Moon Street
London - W1J 7BH

Tel: + 44 (0)20 7499 2964
Fax: + 44 (0)20 7499 1817
[email protected]

Classic Double without breakfast: £195 +VAT

The Cavendish London
81 Jermyn Street
London - SW1U 6JF

Tel: + 44 (0)20 7930 2111
Fax: + 44 (0)20 7839 2125
[email protected]

Classic Room without breakfast: £205 +VAT

Book The Cavendish online

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

Tel: 020 7493 0111
Fax: 020 7493 7121
[email protected]

Classic Queen without breakfast: £247 +VAT
Quote Chatham House


Press registration

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

Press can request a press pass.