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Deutsche Bank report highlights importance of China’s Belt and Road Initiative

In its heyday, the Silk Road was the most important trading network in the world - connecting East to West and stimulating economic, diplomatic and cultural development. Some 2,000 years later, China has set out to rebuild this historic highway. A new report from Deutsche Bank has highlighted how the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has expanded far beyond its original scope, reaching as much as 65% of the world’s population, while covering half of world gross domestic product (GDP), 75% of all known energy reserves and a quarter of all cross-border goods and services

As Michael Spencer, Deutsche Bank’s APAC chief economist explains, the BRI is “first and foremost an economic venture”, reflecting the government’s confidence in its economic development model, which holds that rapidly building infrastructure prevents bottlenecks that constrain growth. However, the initiative has come to encompass much more than just transport infrastructure, expanding to include healthcare, education, tourism and media-related ventures as well.

Project sustainability

Environmental, social and corruption risks are ever-present in such large-scale developments. With the aim of mitigating some of these risks, 27 institutions first signed up to a set of voluntary principles known as the Green Investment Principles (GIP) in April 2019, to incorporate sustainable development and low-carbon practices to the BRI. This list has since expanded to 33.

Meanwhile, ensuring a project’s success also means securing funding and ensuring debt sustainability. An estimated US$1.9 trillion worth of annual investment is still required to fund the BRI.

Third-party country partnerships

With China’s financing capacity stretched, collaboration with third-party countries and investors is being increasingly encouraged. Cooperation with international banks and foreign investors will not only bring in much-needed funds, but also ensure a diversified financial participation that makes projects more resistant to geopolitical and financial risks.

Partnerships between China, a project host country and third-party investors can also help BRI projects balance Chinese financial investment with additional quality assurance and risk mitigation from best-in-class providers. Section 4 of the white paper shares a selection of Deutsche Bank BRI deals that were made possible because of partnerships with the Chinese government.

The road ahead

Over the next few years, the continued success of this project will likely be driven by growing interest from global banks and investors prepared to fund projects within higher-risk regions. The backing of China’s big four state-owned banks, along with support from Sinosure and the country’s development banks, represents a huge advantage, the report says - reassuring participants of the strength and stability of BRI projects.

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