- NBR - The National Bureau of Asian Research

China's Belt and Road Initiative: Political and Strategic Implications of a Chinese-led Regional Infrastructure

About the Project

This project provides a comprehensive assessment of the Belt and Road Initiative that will link China with Europe through Eurasia. The project is led by Nadège Rolland, Senior Fellow at NBR, who also serves as the project’s principal investigator.

Made possible by the generous support of the Smith Richardson Foundation, this project has yielded a final monograph that assesses the political and strategic implications of China’s Belt and Road Initiative for Asia, Europe, and the United States. The monograph findings draw on the work of Chinese officials and analytic communities, as well as on Ms. Rolland’s field research in China.

The Issue

The Silk Road Economic Belt, first announced by Chinese President Xi Jinping during his September 2013 trip to Kazakhstan, envisions a network of roads and railways, together with a parallel network of pipelines, fiber-optic cables, and telecommunication links, connecting China to Europe via Central Asia, Iran, Turkey, the Balkans, and the Caucasus across the 11,000-kilometer-long Eurasian continent. While the “belt” links Eurasia to China by land, the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road will comprise a string of ports connecting China with Southeast Asia, South Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Europe through the South China Sea, the Indian Ocean, and the Mediterranean Sea. Chinese authorities see this transportation infrastructure, coupled with a large pipeline and telecommunication network, as a first step toward the creation of a Eurasian economic corridor that will integrate the landlocked economies of the Central Asian hinterland and tie them more tightly to China.

China’s motivations for this extraordinarily ambitious project are numerous and complex, but mostly understudied. The Belt and Road Initiative’s geopolitical and strategic impacts are likely to be far-reaching, and yet Chinese authorities have so far downplayed them.

Project Objectives

  • Describe the nuts and bolts of China’s Belt and Road Initiative and the evolution of the concept in Chinese strategic thinking
  • Examine the internal and external drivers motivating China’s push for the Belt and Road Initiative from an economic, political, and strategic standpoint
  • Analyze how Beijing intends to respond to potential obstacles and challenges
  • Explore the implications for U.S. interests and how Washington should adjust its policy approach in light of China’s intentions


Nadège Rolland
Senior Fellow
Political and Security Affairs

Podcast: China's Belt and Road Initiative

Nadège Rolland, Senior Fellow for Political and Security Affairs at NBR, discusses the significance of the Belt and Road Initiative, what it means for the region, and how U.S. officials and businesses should respond to the initiative.

China's Eurasian Century? Political and Strategic Implications of the Belt and Road Initiative

In this new monograph, Nadège Rolland (NBR) examines the drivers and goals of China’s Belt and Road Initiative and argues that the initiative reflects Beijing’s desire to shape Eurasia according to its own worldview and unique characteristics. Read a free chapter.

China's Strategy Behind the "One Belt, One Road" Initiative

Nadège Rolland spoke on China's strategy behind the "One Belt, One Road" initiative (OBOR) in an expert panel discussion hosted by the Robert S. Strauss Center and the Center for East Asian Studies. Learn more about the event and see a video interview with Ms. Rolland.

China’s New Silk Road

Launched by President Xi Jinping in 2013, China’s initiative to build a Silk Road economic belt signals a new era of integration between China and its Central Asian neighbors in support of Beijing’s growing regional influence. Nadège Rolland (NBR) examines the economic and strategic prospects for the initiative.