Aligning China’s “Belt and Road” Action Plan with “People’s Expectations”


By: Dr. Mei Gechlik / On: October 31, 2023

Aligning China’s “Belt and Road” Action Plan with “People’s Expectations”
Image: Circe Denyer, Cargo Ship On A River Passageway (

At the third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation held in mid-October to mark the tenth anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative (“BRI”), Chinese President XI Jinping concluded his keynote speech titled “Building an Open, Inclusive, and Interconnected World for Common Development” in this way:

The joint construction of the “Belt and Road” originates from China, and the results and opportunities belong to the world.  Let us keep in mind the people’s expectations […,] and move forward with courage […].

[emphasis added]

In his speech, President Xi announced that China will take the following eight actions in the coming years to support the “high-quality” joint construction of the “Belt and Road”:

  1. “building a multidimensional ‘Belt and Road’ connectivity network”;
  2. “supporting the building of an open world economy”;
  3. “carrying out practical cooperation”;
  4. “promoting green development”;
  5. “advancing scientific and technological innovation”;
  6. “supporting people-to-people exchanges”;
  7. “building a road to integrity”; and
  8. “improving the ‘Belt and Road’ international cooperation mechanism”.

President Xi briefly described each of these actions.  As details of these actions are being prepared, it is crucial for China to be fully aware of the expectations held by people in the partner countries of the BRI.  After all, the ultimate success of the BRI largely hinges on China’s ability to align these actions with such expectations.

“People’s Expectations”: Voices from Latin America and Africa

“Two members of the SINOTALKS® Global Business & Development Network recently shared their views about the BRI.”

Two members of the SINOTALKS® Global Business & Development Network recently shared their views about the BRI.

Rita Lezcano, who is based in Latin America, wrote:

China’s growing footprint in Latin America is indeed a fascinating development. With over 20 Latin American countries participating in China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative, […] one cannot underestimate the advantages of this collaboration. China’s investments in trade and infrastructure projects are injecting vitality into Latin American economies.  These ventures are not just about cement and steel; they are about connectivity, shared growth, and improved livelihoods. […]

However, the growing presence of China in Latin America is not without implications. […] How should the U.S. navigate this evolving relationship between Latin America and China? What strategies can be employed to ensure that everyone benefits, and global harmony prevails?

[emphasis added]

Another voice is from Africa.  Magdalene Uzoechi shared the following views:

[…] The impact of BRI on Africa has been a complex tapestry.  On [the] one hand, it has ushered in a wave of new infrastructure projects, generating employment opportunities and fostering economic growth. […On the other hand,] the BRI has also brought about challenges, particularly in the form of debt for some African nations. […]

Yet, amidst these concerns, it is essential to recognize the ease with which African nations can access loans through the BRI, a sharp contrast to the rigorous processes involved when seeking similar funding from institutions like the World Bank or IMF.  This ease of access cannot be ignored. […]

In this context, the BRI initiative presents a unique opportunity. While risks exist, careful management of these loans and their utilization for the intended purposes can pave the way for a rapid transformation of Africa.  The key lies in vigilant oversight, ensuring that these resources are channeled into projects that enhance infrastructure, foster economic growth, and empower local communities. […]

[emphasis added]

The above views expressed by Ms. Lezcano and Ms. Uzoechi suggest that they have at least the following expectations for the BRI:

  • Non-exclusivity: create an environment that allows partner countries to also engage with countries perceived as China’s competitors;  
  • Vigilant Oversight: provide vigilant oversight of the use of resources for BRI projects; and
  • People’s Livelihoods: improve people’s livelihoods by, for example, fostering economic growth and empowering local communities.

While more in-depth study should be conducted, the three expectations above are likely shared by many people in the partner countries of the BRI.

People’s Expectations vs. China’s Action Plan

“Is China’s new BRI action plan able to align with the above three expectations? “

Is China’s new BRI action plan able to align with the above three expectations?

  • Non-exclusivity 

At the end of the third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, Chinese Foreign Minister WANG Yi held a press conference for the media.  When asked by a journalist to share his views about the relationship between the BRI and similar initiatives led by other countries such as the United States, Foreign Minister Wang shared the following comment that should relieve any concerns about BRI’s exclusivity:

We have noted that some countries have also launched international initiatives on connectivity. [… The BRI] is an open platform and all parties are welcome to take part in it at any time.  At the same time, China hopes that the connectivity initiatives of other countries will also be open and refrain from creating exclusive cliques. China is ready to coordinate with all connectivity initiatives and jointly explore cooperation beneficial to developing countries.

  • Vigilant Oversight

Among the eight actions that China will take in the coming years to improve the BRI is “Action 7: building a road to integrity”.  According to President Xi’s keynote speech, as mentioned above, China will release the “High-Level Principles on Belt and Road Integrity Building” and establish an integrity and compliance evaluation system to assess companies involved in the BRI.  This will help provide vigilant oversight of the use of resources for BRI projects.

  • People’s Livelihoods

Both “Action 3: carrying out practical cooperation” and “Action 5: advancing scientific and technological innovation” incorporate activities that can further improve people’s livelihood by, for example, empowering partner countries’ workforce.

As just one illustration, as part of “Action 3”, China will carry out 1,000 small-scale livelihood assistance projects to enhance vocational education cooperation through “Luban Workshops” and other activities.  As part of “Action 5”, China will increase the number of joint laboratories built with other parties to 100 in the next five years and will support young scientists from other countries to work on short-term programs in China.

The above analysis shows that China’s new BRI action plan has the potential to align quite well with the expectations of the people in BRI partner countries.  The coming years will be a critical period for China to prove that the BRI can indeed meet these expectations.  If this occurs, China will be seen as a responsible power that can indeed help “build an open, inclusive, and interconnected world for common development.”

The citation of this article is: Dr. Mei Gechlik, Aligning China’s “Belt and Road” Action Plan with “People’s Expectations”, SINOTALKS.COM®, In Brief No. 37, Oct. 31, 2023,

The original, English version of this article was edited by Nathan Harpainter.  The information and views set out in this article are the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the work or views of SINOTALKS®.