The balance in Eurasia is shifting. China’s President Xi Jinping has ambitious visions for Asia, while the rest of the world reshuffles to find its place in the rapidly changing global order. Each nation guesses at the United States’ new role in the world, while China broadcasts its own role across the globe, ready to challenge those who stand in opposition to its vision. China’s impact is global: reaching from the perils of the Korean peninsula; stretching across Asia, the Middle East, and Africa; and influencing regimes along the way. During this historic moment, the importance of Asia to US interests grows all the greater.
Launched in 2013 by China’s President Xi Jinping, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI or OBOR) is poised to be the most ambitious and all-encompassing economic development program in human history. The multi-trillion-dollar initiative will connect China and Europe over land, and will traverse the South China Sea, the Indian Ocean, the Red Sea, and the Mediterranean Sea.
The United States would be better off engaging with the BRI and trying to influence its design and mechanics from within, rather than staying on the sidelines and witnessing its allies gravitating toward China. To realize this goal, this paper recommends that the United States neither reject nor fully embrace the BRI. Instead, it should adopt a third strategy: constructive participation.