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Belt and Road: A Chinese World Order

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China's Belt and Road strategy is acknowledged to be the most ambitious geopolitical initiative of the age. Covering almost seventy countries by land and sea, it will affect every element of global society, from shipping to agriculture, digital economy to tourism, politics to culture. Most importantly, it symbolizes a new phase in China's ambitions as a superpower: to remake the world economy and crown Beijing as the new center of capitalism and globalization.

Bruno Maçães traces this extraordinary initiative's history, highlighting its achievements to date, and its staggering complexity. He asks whether Belt and Road is about more than power projection and profit. Might it herald a new set of universal political values, to rival those of the West? Is it, in fact, the story of the century?

288 pages, Hardcover

Published March 1, 2019

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Bruno Maçães

7 books110 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 45 reviews
Profile Image for Geevee.
344 reviews192 followers
November 8, 2020
Bruno Maçães' book offers a thoughtful and well positioned overview of the Belt and Road Initiative along with some considered projections on potential outcomes 30 years' ahead.

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is China's huge strategic transcontinental investment and policy project covering some seventy countries that aims to facilitate and create global economic integration (and indeed Chinese power).

Mr Maçães is a well-informed having been educated at Lisbon and Harvard universities and spending time as Portugal's Secretary of State for European Affairs (2013-2015) and latterly as a Non-resident Senior Fellow at Hudson Institute in Washington alongside his regular writings and media appearances for news organisations. He has developed a interest in China and its economic and geo-political path and plans.

For all this though, the book is rather dry and at times reads much-like a mix between academic paper and a key note speech. However, amongst this are some persuasive arguments on China's plans and how India, the US and Europe have and may have to act and respond. The information on how China is lending money (and this appears to be a central tenet) to nations along with technology, skills, human resources and machinery to build huge cites, shipping ports, railways for example is fascinating. Pakistan is one of those nations amongst others such as Malaysia and African nations. Most of whom then cannot pay the interest/other charges on the investment meaning China then seeks capital as payment leading to ownership, control and in some cases Chinese military bases/assets being deployed as part of the financial settlement/debt repayment.

For me there are some gaps notably how China is, alongside the BRI, pressing its space plans forward, its new allies such as Iran and no mention on Covid (my copy has a introduction dated August 2020).

However, without these there is still lots of information on how, why and where the Chinese are progressing and looking to progress; all the while seeking to challenge, change and create new economic partnerships, alliances and even standards, regulation and legislation (these latter points a direct challenge to the US/Europe method of business/contracts and procurement).

It [China] is also seeking to influence through control of supply; not finished goods, although these create the high-level value chains, but that of raw materials. For example take cobalt and China's interest in where it is mined, by whom and how that raw material is controlled.
Why? Well cobalt is needed for batteries and it is key not just to our laptops, smartphones and other devices but especially for electric & autonomous vehicles and the future of travel coupled with intelligent sensors that collect data. With over half of the world's cobalt mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo (and China is next with some 12%), China's investments, its resident workforce and huge construction programmes In the DRC see it in first place to control this resource and make sure any debt default is transformed into capital ownership.

The final chapter provides a projection through 4 models on what may happen to the Belt & Road Initiative and the trade, political influence and as such the success of China's far-reaching strategy.

However these shape out, as one of these 4 or an amalgam, the certainty is China is challenging and changing the world. It is changing countries, alliances, investment and risk models (huge cash investments with little/no cash return but lots of power & influence), GDP and debt ratios, energy and transport networks and overall trade/commerce models. India, Australia, Japan, the US and Europe must view and respond to these in a coordinated way that doesn't alienate China and others but also does not create undue dependency or exposure.
Profile Image for Venky.
949 reviews341 followers
December 27, 2019
The Belt and Road Initiative (“BRI”) also known as One Belt One Road (“OBOR”) was unraveled to the world for the first time by Chinese President Xi Jinping in September and October 2013 during visits to Astana in Kazakhstan and Jakarta in Indonesia. This mega initiative was thereafter enthusiastically promoted by Premier Li Keqiang during state visits to Asia and Europe. The Chinese government calls the initiative "a bid to enhance regional connectivity and embrace a brighter future.” Touted to be the most expansive, expensive and extensive effort rivalling (or even exceeding) the Marshall Plan in its sweep and covering a humongous number of countries in its wake, the BRI threatens to create a tectonic shift in the geopolitical order characterizing the globe today. However, is this initiative an attempt by the second biggest economy on the Planet to exercise a ruthless economic and political hegemony over the world or is this a tide that will lift all ships uniformly thereby ushering in a new era of co-operation hitherto never seen before?

Bruno Macaes, formerly Portugal’s Europe Minister (2013-15), attempts to answer the above tricky questions in what has to be one of the most informed, articulate and unbiased works – as yet, on China’s astounding aspiration. Taking an unbiased perspective and using the neutral lens of a political analyst, Mr. Macae brings to bear the potential outcomes of the BRI. At the heart of BRI, argues Mr. Macaes, lies the general principle of “Tianxia” – which literally means All-under-Heaven or World. The Chinese Tianxia, “emphasizes, togetherness, a complex network of ties between countries. They are much more substantial than mere legal ones. Virtues are regularly invoked; countries have relations of dependence, generosity, gratitude, respect and retribution.” It is this call of togetherness that bring together both land and sea components under the BRI. Known respectively as the Silk Road Economic Belt and the Twenty First Century Maritime Silk Road, the Belt Road courses through the continents of Asia, Europe and Africa. China is pulling all stops to ensure that finance is not a constraint for the materialization of this epic scheme. “The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, founded on December 25, 2015, with its headquarters in Beijing and an authorized capital of $100 billion – about half of that of the World Bank – considers Belt and Road projects as one of its investment priorities. Thus it approved $509 million in investments for its first four projects on June 25, 2016……in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan and Tajikistan….” Funding for the BRI seems to be of no issue whatsoever to China. “Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, the largest bank in the world by assets, is already taking part in 212 projects relating to the Belt and Road, with credit facilities exceeding $67 billion.”

However, this very seemingly unending slush of funds has the pernicious potential of setting the participating countries on the path towards perdition. The debt trap into which the recipients of Chinese funding might find themselves, may force the borrowers to relinquish strategic assets in their own territories to the lenders. Consider this: “In December 2017, Sri Lanka formally handed control of Hambantota port to China in exchange for writing down the country’s debt. Under a $1.1 billion deal, Chinese firms now hold a 70 percent stake in the port and a 99 year lease agreement to operate it.” China itself has acknowledged this fact. “In April 2018, Li Ruogu, the former president of the Export-Import Bank of China, argued publicly that most of the countries along the routes of the BRI did not have the money to pay for the projects for which they were involved…..the countries’ average liability and debt rates had reached 35 and 126 percent respectively, far above the globally recognized warning lines.”

And then there are the issues of sovereignty and territorial security. Just a day before the event unveiling the BRI, India pulled out of the gathering citing that in the currently envisaged form, the BRI would impose unsustainable burdens of debt. Also the fact that the proposed China Pakistan Economic Corridor (“CPEC”) would wind through the disputed areas of Gilgit and Baltistan in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir did not further India’s enthusiasm either for the project. The recent standoff at the Doklam plateau between the Chinese and Indian armed forces over the incursions of China in the Himalayas reflects the fragile state of political relations between the two Asian behemoths. India however, is not the only nation that is wary of the China initiative. Many of the littoral states with whom China is hemmed in, in a maritime dispute over the ownership of islands are expected to be locked into the BRI providing a much needed leverage and boost to China’s claims of marine supremacy. President Donald Trump has expressed his aversion to the BRI by terming it “insulting.” After becoming the leader of Malaysia following a shock election victory in 2018, Mahathir Mohammed has been outspoken in his desire and determination to terminate many “Chinese contracts” which were consummated by the erstwhile Government led by the now ousted and infamous Najib Tun Razak. Rampant corruption and utter disdain to the process of tendering are cited to be the main reasons underlying this move. Similarly, there has been stiff opposition to the Laos-China railway. Estimated to cost US$5.95 billion with 70% of the railway owned by China, while Laos's remaining 30% stake will be mostly financed by loans from China, the exorbitant costs of the project now threatens its viability.

The very pivot of global politics and economics threatens to be upended by the BRI. A new world order that has China at its pioneering front has set off multiple scenarios of dystopian possibilities. While the project itself entailing a humongous estimated outlay between $4 - $8 trillion is a long way from being concretized and consummated, it has set off conflicting tremors with each shock having its own peculiarity and profound implications.

A good way to grasp such wholesale ramifications would be to get hold of Bruno Macaes’ work.
Profile Image for A Man Called Ove.
915 reviews219 followers
June 7, 2019
2.5/5 First things first, I was stunned by the concept of "Belt and Road". I earlier thought "Belt and Road" or "One Belt One Road" was just the CPEC - China-Pakistan Economic Corridor connecting West China to Gwadar with a few sub-routes thrown in West Asia. Now, in my humble (and ignorant) opinion, it is the greatest project of imperalism since the British Empire or the Nazi attempt under Hitler.
Massive projects which will be paid for by the host govt (say Pakistan), with contracts awarded opaquely to Chinese companies, with machinery, materials, technology, manpower etc all sourced from China, and which benefit the Chinese economy - in the short term by providing an option to offload their excess capacity in infrastructure and in the long term by providing a control over global trade (and indirectly the sovereignty of other nations). And add to that the ruling Chinese Communist Party owns a lot of the companies and this is the perfect recipe for the third Reich.
For example, read in the book that China imposed trade sanctions on Vietnam and Cambodia for opposing its stand on the South China Sea. Or the recent news that China is squeezing USA and co. by denying rare earth metal supplies to them. Just as in Muslim-majority countries, Islam and politics are inseparable, in the same way politics and economics are inseparable in China. I think India has wisely decided to be cautious.
The book unfortunately contains a lot of diplomatic language and big jargon that is very ambiguous. Wish it had been a little more grounded. Also, think it should have had a little more length and depth with examples.
Profile Image for Carlos Martinez.
337 reviews208 followers
February 28, 2020
A useful if somewhat dry primer on the Belt and Road initiative - the China-led alternative globalisation project that poses the first serious threat to US hegemony since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Maçães is a seasoned Portuguese politician and academic, and clearly has a detailed understanding of the complexities of international trade and global value chains. As such he is well placed to explain the scope of the Belt and Road initiative and to uncover the complex mix of challenge and opportunity that it represents for various key players, including the US, the EU, Russia, India, Pakistan and the Central Asian republics.

It's slightly disappointing - albeit entirely predictable - that the author implicitly accepts a rather Eurocentric worldview, in which 'liberal democracy' is inherently good and correct, and China's refusal to adopt this ideology is therefore a major challenge to globalisation in the future. In summary, read this book in order to get some detailed insight into the Belt and Road, not to shape your political ideology.
Profile Image for Stephen.
427 reviews23 followers
May 24, 2019
What is the Belt and Road? Why is it of significance? How likely is it to be achieved? These are the questions that this book seeks to address. An important part in understanding the book is to accept that the strategic design of Chinese foreign policy is westwards rather than eastwards. If we ask where the US fits into this plan, the simple answer is that it doesn't. If we can accept that rpemise, the rest of the account falls into place.

The Belt and Road is the blueprint by which China seeks to dominate the Eurasian landmass. As such, it excludes the continent of America. It also fosters a Chinese view that Europe is the western edge of the landmass. The purpose is to integrate the Eurasian landmass into a single economic entity, which China as the centre of activity. At present, this consists of devleoping the road, rail, and digital infrastructure to allow this to happen.

'The Belt' refers to a sequence of land based economic prosperity corridors. They stretch across Asia and into Europe and Africa. It is upon these assets that Chinese investment is focussed. 'The Road' refers to a sequence of maritime port facilities that complement the Belt. The intention is to facilitate the passage of trade goods within the Eurasian landmass. It is interesting to consider events in the South China Sea from this perspective. The militarisation of a series of atolls is seen as essential to ensure the free passage of goods to and from China.

On top of this is Chinese investment in the digital infrastructure, particularly in the roll out of 5G. A review of this policy underlines why the Belt and Road is significant. The author maintains that China has passed the point where it can be the least cost manufacturing economy. It is starting to migrate up the value chain. As it does do, it needs to develop it's own sources of low value, labour intensive, goods. It is doing this by pressing the value chain westwards into Central Asia. If this policy is successful, then it will significantly shift the core of the world economy into Asia. That is the significance of the Belt and Road.

Is it likely to succeed? The policy has had a good start. Progress has been made with Pakistan, Myanmar, and the Sentral Asian republics. The key test will be how Russia and Europe reacts. So far, Russia has been generally positive and Chinese overtures in Europe have met with mixed success. However, in straightened times, chequebook diplomacy has its place. One wonders how resistant a Europe in fiscal crisis might be? We can wonder what the consequences of an American abandonment of global influebnce might be? It is quite likely that American isolationism is exactly what the Chinese government would like.

This book describes the Belt and Road, tells us why it is important, and suggests that it might be a feature to look out for in the future. The author doesn't write naturally in English, which makes it a hard read. It is worth taking on a bit of a struggle because this is an important issue and the author has some important insights into it. On reading the book, it certainly enhanced my understanding of current and future events.
Profile Image for Kaitlin Oujo.
198 reviews
January 1, 2020
An outstanding (and short) review of the history and politics of One Belt One Road. What I think differentiates this book from other writing about the Belt and Road is the reliance on primary sources (such as speeches by Chinese political leaders and investment records). This is not a “sky is falling” book about the rise of China, but a well-researched and well-written overview of this topic.
Profile Image for Raumil Suthar.
11 reviews1 follower
October 7, 2020
Well structured but a map would help. It contains what is already available in news articles with added opinions of the author. It does not cover any historical aspects of Chinese ideas which would have helped in tracking the overall development. Though most of the issues have a political backing, the author does not go into the political ideas of the CCP.
Profile Image for Trey Shipp.
32 reviews7 followers
July 14, 2019
A captivating and insightful book on the many dimensions of One Belt, One Road

I like how Mr. Maçães first gives the details of the enormous investments in roads, railroads, and ports, and then explains how they fit with China’s more aggressive economic strategy. The book has four sections:

• The physical and political details of Belt and Road.
• How Belt and Road changes the world’s economy.
• How Belt and Road challenges the US-dominant power structure.
• Speculation on what the world will look like after the Belt and Road is complete.

Here are some points I found interesting:

• The estimated cost for the Belt and Road initiative (BRI) is $4 trillion to $8 trillion.
• The Export-Import Bank of China plans to finance more than 1000 projects in forty-nine countries.
• Not only did China include the BRI in its current five-year plan, but it also wrote it into the Chinese Communist Party’s Constitution, signifying how important it is to China’s leadership.
• China imports vast amounts of oil, and most of it has to pass through the Indian Ocean and Strait of Malacca into the South China Sea. If an enemy’s navy attacked these shipping lanes, China would quickly starve of energy. With Belt and Road, new pipelines to Central Asia, Russia, and Iran will relieve this vulnerability.
• China is planning to pay for oil from these new sources in yuan, not dollars. As oil is the world’s most traded commodity, and China is the largest oil importer, this action will challenge the U.S. dollar as the world’s reserve currency.

• The primary goal of the Belt and Road is economic integration.
• China could fall into the “middle-income trap,” where its average wage rates rise too high to attract labor-intensive jobs, but the country’s structural issues prevent it from becoming competitive in higher value-added jobs.
• Chinese companies are looking to move some factories to Central Asia, where the costs are lower. However, these plants will be customers for machinery built at higher value-added factories in China.
• China has tried to lock up the supply of cobalt from the Democratic Republic of Congo, because cobalt is required to build lithium-ion batteries for electric cars, and China plans to be the world leader in building electric cars.

• India believes that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is a significant threat to its security.
• India, the U.S., Japan, and Australia are considering a joint regional infrastructure plan in response to Belt and Road.
• China may need to increase its military presence in areas where Belt and Road projects are threatened by local resistance.
• At the Belt and Road summit in May 2017, the European Union would not sign the joint statement on trade because they believed Beijing was trying to favor Chinese companies in contracts. As one official said, “It’s about selling their stuff.”

• The Belt and Road will succeed if it moves China into the role of the dominant superpower, ending its ‘century of humiliation’ when the west dominated it.
• One scenario is that China will become a prosperous western-like economy without causing any global conflict.
• Another scenario is that the global world order divides into two irreconcilable visions on individual freedom, transparency, and the rule of law.

Note: as some reviewers have complained, this book doesn’t contain any maps of the Belt and Road Initiative, so expect to do a few web searches. However, that didn’t bother me because the scope of Belt and Road is so enormous, it is easier for me to see it online than on a single book page. This book’s strength is Mr. Maçães’ analysis.
Profile Image for Iván.
395 reviews17 followers
November 4, 2019
Muy interesante libro sobre la iniciativa Belt and Road promovida por China. Bruno es un experto en Relaciones Internacionales que explica muy bien conceptos y realidades. Agradable lectura, he disfrutado y aprendido nuevas cosas.
Profile Image for Avinash Chhetry.
12 reviews3 followers
June 25, 2020
The book talks about how China has evolved over a period of time, specially post the century of humiliation. The author has structered the contents of the book in a commendable manner which enables the reader to comprehend about the ever evolving dynamics of global polity with the rising China as the epicenter. The book talks about how Belt and Road initiative of China will shape the world order incase it goes on to be a success, which i personally doubt.
19 reviews
April 2, 2019
Good book, interesting insights. Somewhat too detailed here and there, but no major criticism furthermore.
648 reviews13 followers
April 27, 2019
Macaes examines China's "One Belt, One Road" initiative, known in the West as the Belt and Road (B&R). The book starts with some of the history leading up to the B&R, and looks at some of the proposed works including transportation links for goods, energy flow and communications infrastructure. Most of the book is devoted to the bigger picture of China's objectives, the choice of partners for the B&R, and the ensuing global strategies. Finally, good material is included on the difference between China's ideals and those of the West and other countries.

China's Belt and Road (B&R) initiative is one to not only increase trade with partner countries, but to take a lead in shaping the system of global trade. President Xi Jinping never refers to it as the new Silk Road as "It is not a trade route but an economic belt." The Chinese principle of Tianxia (All-under-Heaven or World) is that relationships determine obligations. Relations are based on mutual benefit and should take precedence over individual choice, and so China's problems and challenges can only be addressed through mutually beneficial relations with other countries. China plans to set up an international court to settle disputes among B&R countries to ensure that each countries interests are protected.

China's "Made in China 2025" is trying to transform the country into a global manufacturing leader. A part of this is knowledge acquisition. China currently pays significant royalty fees on each electronics product to other countries - e.g. 30 percent on computers and machine tools. China will try to get B&R participating countries to adopt Chinese standards. While the US tariffs against China are in response to their trade deficit, they also claim that China engages in market distorting behaviour which seems to be stealing US technology and providing subsidies. China views these tariffs as attempts to stifle their development.

China is trying to develop global value chains, which increase a country's ability to negotiate trade agreements. The author gives the example of France buying bulk carrier ships from China, instead of Korea, as they also obtained access to Chinese ports. China is working with B&R partners to integrate value chains directly into their economy. China sees Pakistan as having agricultural and low labor cost advantages, and is assisting Pakistan to set up fertilizer and meat processing plants, and seed and irrigation initiatives. Conversely, Pakistan will supply yarn which will make the province of Xinjiang the largest supplier of garments and textiles in China. New fibre-optic cables will lead into Pakistan and on to Africa. All projects are government led and regulated, with private enterprise carrying out the work. China has invested in Kazakhstan in industries to supply titanium and vanadium oxides to China's aircraft industries, but also worked with Kazakhstan to develop cobalt supplies in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The B&R initiative may increase China - India conflict. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor may cut India off from oil supplies in Iran and the sale of wheat to Afghanistan. India has refused to join the B&R, concerned about governance, openness, debt burden and environmental protection. While India imports heavily from China, China discourages Indian imports which has created a massive trade imbalance. Both countries are fast growing, with India having some advantages such as a younger population, a greater tolerance of risk and better cultural and entertainment industries.

India is increasingly turning to South-east Asia - Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines - for trade, and to Japan as a source of technology. The south-east Asian countries are somewhat caught between India and China, not wanting to choose but neither wanting to lose opportunities with either. The Indo-Pacific is becoming a strategic area, with even the U.S. trying to make a footprint. The U.S. has warned countries that the trade partnerships with China trade short-term gains for long-term dependency. The U.S. is very concerned with the increasing influence of China in Asia and Africa. Australia and New Zealand are suspicious. China regards Canada as an American political and economic dependency. China has made inroads into the lesser European countries, but the EU has been cautious, wanting to participate while sharing the managerial responsibilities.

Critics of the B&R say that the initiative makes decision-makers and companies move too fast and take undue risks. Financing the B&R works requires great amounts of capital and there are many concerns with the amount of debt, including the portion that is assigned to the partner companies. As the projects often have long term objectives, the partners may not see immediate revenues sufficient to cover the debt payments. Internal criticism has been that China should be spending less in B&R partner countries, and more internally where there are still large numbers of people living in a pre-modern economy.

Macaes delves into Chinese ideology, which is fundamentally different from that of the West. It has allowed China to move forward at a rate far exceeding other countries. Chinese officials see their system as different from some Western values, but carrying an important set of principles: amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness. Conversely, they see Western governance as showing many ills and not being adequate to deal with the current international situation.

Weiwei Zhang argues that a modern political system should guarantee a balance between political, social and financial powers to act in favour of the majority. He argues that the spirit of "seeking truth from facts" is necessary and has been abandoned by Western societies where being politically correct has become more important than grasping reality. While Macaes suggests that Chinese society moves away from transparency and public knowledge, it is not clear that these a paramount in Western society either. The Chinese model of society will grow in competition with Western style democracy. The author imagines a number of future scenarios, but it appears likely that the world will see a number states with different ideologies.

Profile Image for Madikeri Abu.
146 reviews3 followers
October 28, 2020

The belt and road initiative by China is a much, much more ambitious, expensive and expansive infrastructure project than that of Marshall plan initiated by the USA in 1948 to rebuild western Europe after the world war 2. As per one estimate the cost of the BRI is 8-10 trillion dollars, yes you read it right, 8-10 trillion US dollars! That is more than three times the GDP of India, a country of 1.35 billion people.

In this book, Belt and Road: The Sinews of Chinese Power by former European Union Minister from Portugal, Bruno Macaes explains how this massive project will affect the geopolitics and economy of the countries and regions that has signed up for the initiative (almost 120 countries at the last count has signed to be part of the project with the notable exception of India, its major neighbor), how it will cement the place of China as numero uno, not just in Asia or Eurasia but whole world and how it will relegate the current lone superpower US to the sideline. The massive building spree will be financed partly by China, partly by the recipient nation but will be built mostly with Chinese companies, with Chinese materials, with Chinese machinery, with Chinese technology and of course with the Chinese manpower.

If you are anti-BRI you can call it a step towards Chinese hegemony in the world but the fact is one can't ignore the fact that china has arrived on the world stage, and as Napoleon Bonaparte said a long time ago “China is a sleeping giant. Let her sleep, for when she wakes she will move the world” and now since she has woken up, she has started to move the world and the tremours and repercussions of that movement will be felt not just in Asia or Eurasia but all over the world, which will undoubtedly eclipse the prowess of the western world, both its soft power as well as hard power.

An informative, well researched and interesting book and a must read for those who are keen to keep abreast of the latest geopolitical and economic situation of the world.

Favorite Quote:

“China’s Belt and Road will be the new World Trade Organization—whether we like it or not.”
Profile Image for Don.
555 reviews67 followers
June 16, 2019
China’s entry into the WTO set-up back in 2001 was seen by the strategists of neoliberalism as a great way to tame the communist beast and shackle the country to the free market. The stirring up a new round of global super-power tension seems to be a marked departure from a line of development and progress that was intended to take the world in other directions.

Deng Xiaoping’s reforms back in the 1970s led to China becoming a supplier of cheap goods to the developed world which was beginning to revel in the joys of outsourcing. Production took root in the newly established Special Economic Zones which were making use of the country’s abundance of hard-put peasant and working classes. It was a win-win for politicians who saw globalisation as a way for the Global North breakout of its own logjam of low rates of profit and stagnant productivity and at the same time equip the countries of the developing world with new tools to overcome poverty.

China has been outstanding successful in accomplishing the second of these tasks, with something like 600 million of its citizens being taken out of the direst standards of want and need over a period of time when economic growth has attained rates of 10 percent a year plus. But this very development has presented the country’s autocratic rulers with a set of new challenges which have sown the seeds of new, profound tensions being introduced into global capitalism.

Bruno Maçães book setting out the nature of this challenge to the world order is essential reading for anyone wanting to understand the vitriol behind US hostility towards Huawei’s role in building 5G mobile communication systems and the raft of Beijing policies that have been designated ‘belt and road’. His starting point is the fact that China has reached the end of economic growth based on a cheap labour force manufacturing cheap goods. It now has a population in which modestly prosperous households make up the largest segment, and who are devoting a large share of their new wealth to the education of their offspring. Chinese workers are expecting something better out of life than the sweated labour on offer in companies linked to foreign transnationals.

Maçães explains that China needs a leg-up to become an economy producing the high-tech goods in innovations in robotics and AI for which the world is becoming ever more hungry. But production for this world means working with the global value chains (GVC) that have splayed manufacturing and services out into a thousand pieces spread across a hundred countries, all coordinated by a powerful centre which can command the various parts to deliver according to its own strict standards.

The leadership in Beijing looks outwards and sees the prospects for building the cross-border networks it needs to assemble for the sake of its own GVCs as lying in the barely realised potential of central Asia, which in turn opens up routes to the south and south-east (Pakistan, India, Indochina) and westwards along a new Silk Roads to West Asia and Europe. It becomes too easy to envision the belt and road strategy as a simple opening up of trade routes, but Maçães insists it is far more ambitious than that. The idea of the ‘belt’ needs to be understood as a region in which transport, communication, goods manufacture and service provision is integrated in accordance with the standards required to produce value in a chain which ultimately be captured by the China to which all parts of its unique GVC ae directed. The ‘road’ refers to maritime connections which link Chinese ports to the rest of the world.

Maçães gives us a clear picture of the moral world view which justifies these plans to the Chinese Communist Party. In contrasting this with more the forms of imperialism which stemmed from the European powers he suggests that this can be seen as ‘Confucius versus Machiavelli’. Machiavellism is essentially amoral being concerned with the preservation of the power of the prince. Later modifications of the idea tell us that, if good emerges from this it is an unintended consequence of the pursuit of selfish interests, guided by the ‘invisible hand’ of the market.

Confucianism, on the other hand, is saturated with morality. The Confucian ruler is enjoined to treat the welfare of the people as the highest value, but also that the people who benefit from this state of affairs must yield respect and obedience to the helmsman of their fate. By this standard the countries corralled into the belts and road of the Chinese world order will be expected to show the proper deference to the new emperors in Beijing.

Despite all the nuance, the Chinese world order is likely to be experienced in much the same way as the other world orders which have beset the planet since the Europeans set sail from their own peninsular back in the 15th century. Countries which now seem to be benefiting from substantial investment from Chinese sources that are tied to the modernisation of industry and infrastructure will find themselves burdened with impossible levels of debt should their growth rates fail to reach the clip required to ensure repayment. Expect the belt and road to stir up more discontent and friction in the future, and not all of it coming from the direction of Washington.

February 5, 2023
Li a edição portuguesa publicada pela Relogio D'Água. Para quem gosta de geoestratégica e tem interesse no papel da China na Ordem Mundial, este livro expõe com detalhe o Corredor e Rota.
De Bruno Maçaes, ex-secretario de Estado dos Assuntos Europeus de Portugal de 2013 a 2015, já li outro interessante livro - o Despertar da Eurasia.
Profile Image for Calvin Cheung.
15 reviews5 followers
November 15, 2021
Belt and Road: A Chinese World Order

I highly recommend this book... if you are an insomniac. It took some serious willpower to finish, and I even consider myself a keen China watcher.

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), or One Belt One Road (一带一路), is a Chinese infrastructure development strategy consisting of massive, global mega-projects including everything from railways, ports, pipelines, and hydropower dams, to digital infrastructure and aerospace technology. Despite all this, the book was disappointingly shallow at the project level and fails to engage the audience as a primer on the BRI.

I found it focuses too much on the geopolitics of the BRI as a concept and there was too little information about specific undertakings - case studies if you will - that would have given the book a bit more diversity. There were snippets on exemplary projects such as the Hambantota International Port in Sri Lanka, or the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, and brief mentions of the coalitions other countries have formed to rival the BRI, but none were discussed in any real depth.

Instead, the reader is bombarded with interminable political discourse. What will Russia think? How will India respond? What’s Japan going to do? How will the US counteract? The author seems infatuated with the financial institutions and mechanisms that fund the BRI, so of course he must also contribute to the unremitting debate about debt trap diplomacy.

Certainly there are better BRI books out there: the literature is extensive. I would suggest a pass on this unless you are a passionate political scientist with infinite patience for insipid writing. At the start of every chapter, I was hoping for a change in readability. Unfortunately it never came and the entire book read as dry as the Kazakh desert, agonizing to the bitter end.
Profile Image for Adrian.
251 reviews21 followers
August 20, 2021
Belt and Road is an interesting examination of a possible Chinese World Order, one based upon infrastructure and economic connectivity.
Belt and Road succeeds in introducing the concept of Belt and Road and its background, but the book becomes too heavily ladened with facts and figures, thus making it rather like an overstacked sandwich at times.
However, Macaes does provide some interesting analysis of the implications. Central to this is Debt Diplomacy, however, China is simply repeating the mistakes made by the US and European nations in lending to African countries in the past.
An interesting point is the possible reframing of values, with Western values been on the wane, especially since the crash of 2008 (this book predates the Pandemic). A central point is that China has no need to, nor does it feel any need, to adapt Western Values.
In all, an interesting examination of Chinese designs on World Order. A weakness of the book is that it seems like a list of facts and figures at times, but a strength is that the book is very unbiased and seems to have no ideological slant.
In all, a decent read and a good reference guide to the Belt and Road Initiative.
77 reviews
May 19, 2019
A short book, but full of insightful analysis of where the most significant international initiative is likely headed. Maceaes's work is neither dismissive nor alarmist, but lays out with admirable objectivity the components of what is an amorphous concept rather than a detailed plan. His emphasis on China's aim of capturing global value chains to avoid the middle income trap was particularly eye opening. If you want to get a glimpse of several possible futures for the international global order, read this book.
19 reviews
July 5, 2019
Read it with a detailed map of Eurasia next to you

This book provided a worthwhile foray into a set of projects that may shape large regions of the world over the next three decades. It does have room for improvement when it comes to organization , avoiding repetition, and enriching its descriptions with visual aids (maps) as appropriate. Maps are referenced indirectly and even overtly stated to be useful throughout the book but none are provided.
34 reviews1 follower
July 30, 2020
Overall, a very informative Book on what China plans with the belt and road initiative.

However, some parts of the Book seemed very very general, and the author could have given more specific details and anecdotes. But keeping that aside, a very informative read in light of current world developments concerning China.

The book released in 2019, so foreign policy developments over the last one year have not been covered. Please keep this in mind while reading.
Profile Image for Eddie Choo.
92 reviews5 followers
August 5, 2020
Excellent discussion of the Belt and Road

Macaes does a good job in describing the Belt and Road from an official-like perspective the first half seems to be a positive introduction of what the initiative is followed by the second half of criticisms and responses. Indeed the coherence of this China megaproject has not yet been met with an alternative. That is the tragedy. Too rosy about a China-centrjc world, though.
Profile Image for Nishant.
22 reviews5 followers
March 29, 2020
This book explain the Chinese version of globalization. There are some interesting narratives regarding China and it's mega project BRI.
The book explains why the global east is crucial for the complete global philosophical orientation.
The writer talks about the geo economics of the BRI, and how BRI is a solution to the middle income trap in China and the rest of the world.
Profile Image for Paul Kenyon.
Author 3 books72 followers
January 3, 2022
One has to be committed to get through this book. It reads like an academic paper or a digest of Chinese state companies and their business plans for decades. But if you persevere, then it pays back with interest. Macaes has a near matchless grasp of China's ambitions for dominance in the global economy. And it's scary.
Profile Image for Terry Moseley.
17 reviews
June 26, 2019
This author is Portuguese, thus his expressions of complex ideas in his writings in English can be a bit of a struggle. I found myself reading sentences repeatedly. However, once in the flow in mid-book, I found this book fascinating and enjoyed the level of diplomacy it delivered.
Profile Image for Akash Kaushik.
36 reviews7 followers
August 11, 2020
I knew OBOR was important to the Chinese (thanks to the Sino Reddit community), but this book revealed the scale of its possible impact.
Brace yourself for the new world order.

Well researched book. Enjoyed the chapter dealing with India's view point particularly.
Profile Image for Amina Ahsan.
208 reviews7 followers
December 29, 2022
What a comprehensive detailed insight into the One Belt, One Road Initiative by China. Such a comprehensive and all encompassing project to change the political geography of the world. Interesting to see if they can pull it off.
Profile Image for Linda.
Author 30 books147 followers
March 8, 2019
Terrific, detailed analysis of the Belt and Road and the implications for Chinese power and the formation of a new world order.
Profile Image for Phillip.
798 reviews4 followers
April 21, 2019



3.75 / 5.0
Profile Image for Joanne McKinnon.
Author 9 books3 followers
August 12, 2019
Facts, not over-dramatized tidbits

A deeper look of the changing world. And why those changes are needed. We need to see the world outside our borders.
2 reviews1 follower
March 5, 2020
Poorly organized book.

Was hoping to learn more about the policy and potential aftermath. Instead I found the arguments hard to follow and demonstrated certain degrees of bias.
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