China’s all-embracing Belt and Road Initiative—its master plan for reorienting the economic networks of Afro-Eurasia around a Chinese core—turns six this week. Belt and Road is ubiquitous; it’s everywhere China is, and then some. But it almost never was.
The first half of the Belt and Road formula, the Silk Road Economic Belt, was accidentally launched in 2013 in Kazakhstan. The second half, the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road, was created to assuage the jealousies of countries such as Indonesia and Sri Lanka that felt left out of the first. Neither was much more than a public relations gimmick, but both have captured the world’s imagination as no other foreign-policy program since the Marshall Plan has.
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