On 29 September 2020, Dr Alan Chong, Associate Professor and Acting Head of Centre for Multilateralism Studies (CMS), and Dr Pradumna Rana, Visiting Associate Professor at CMS, introduced their respective new books on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) at the RSIS Dual Book Launch Webinar. The session began with a keynote address by Amb Ong Keng Yong, Executive Deputy Chairman of RSIS.
Dr Chong spoke on his co-edited book, Critical Reflections on China’s Belt and Road, as a volume exploring alternative perspectives on the BRI. It analyses President Xi Jinping’s signature foreign policy project through a variety of distinctly Asian, non-Western lenses to shift debates away from broadly framing the BRI as problematic and towards how it is changing regional connections.
Meanwhile, Dr Rana highlighted how his co-authored book, China’s Belt and Road Initiative: Impacts on Asia and Policy Agenda, provides a snapshot of how the BRI is unfolding, its motivations and possible implications. Additionally, the book expounds on policy recommendations via an opinion leader survey of over 1,000 respondents. These recommendations include enhancing BRI transparency and governance, as well as securing multilateral and major power support.
Offering broadly positive reviews of the books were panellists Dr James Dorsey, Senior Fellow of RSIS, and Asst Prof Gong Xue, China Programme of RSIS. Echoing Amb Ong, they noted the timely and relevant contributions of both volumes towards understanding the BRI as a new modality of post-Western, global governance, as well as providing empirical observations on the BRI’s economic and financial governance structures and processes.
Both reviewers and the audience, however, questioned how COVID-19 may impact the BRI’s progress. In the discussion, the panel consisting of both authors and both reviewers noted that the BRI is likely to be recalibrated in light of the pandemic, following tweaks made pre-pandemic in response to, for instance, claims of debt-trap diplomacy. Nonetheless, the panellists agreed that COVID-19 hardly spells out the end of the BRI, though China may focus more on domestic infrastructure and industries for the time being.
Catch it here on the RSISVideoCast YouTube channel: