The Second Belt and Road Forum: Xi’s Reassessment and Recalibration of the BRI


Dan Aum, director of NBR’s Washington, D.C., Office, interviews NBR Senior Fellow Nadège Rolland and Brookings-Yale Postdoctoral Fellow in Foreign Policy Rush Doshi on the recent Belt and Road Forum. Topics discussed include takeaways from the forum, the strategic implications of BRI, forecasting China’s moves, and more.


Rush Doshi is the Brookings-Yale Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Brookings Institution and Yale Law School’s Paul Tsai China Center.

His research has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Foreign Affairs, the Washington Post, and the Washington Quarterly, among other publications. Dr. Doshi received his PhD from Harvard University, where he wrote his dissertation on Chinese grand strategy, and his BA from Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School with a minor in East Asian Studies. He is proficient in Mandarin and Hindi.

Nadège Rolland is Senior Fellow for Political and Security Affairs at NBR.

Prior to joining NBR, Ms. Rolland was an analyst and senior adviser on Asian and Chinese strategic issues to the French Ministry of Defense (1994–2014) and a research analyst for the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) (2007–8).

She is the author of the book China’s Eurasian Century? Political and Strategic Implications of the Belt and Road Initiative (2017). Her articles have appeared in various publications, including the Washington Quarterly, Foreign Policy, the Diplomat, the Asan Open Forum, the Lowy Institute Interpreter, and Strategic Asia, and her comments have been published by the Wall Street Journal, Libération, Les Echos, the Indian National Interest, Radio Free Asia, and BBC World Service.

Ms. Rolland is a graduate of the National Institute of Oriental Languages and Civilizations (MSc Chinese Language and Contemporary Chinese Studies, 1994) and RSIS (MSc Strategic Studies, 2007).


Q1 [1:56] What major changes took place between the first BRI Forum in 2017 and the recent forum in April 2019?

Q2 [3:28] What were Xi’s key objectives for the 2019 forum?

Q3 [4:49] Were the message and tone different this time around?

Q4 [7:03] What are your key takeaways from the 2019 forum?

Q5 [10:58] The challenges associated with being a recipient country of BRI projects are well known. Yet countries continue to sign up for BRI projects. Why?

Q6 [13:48] Are BRI projects meeting universal standards of quality? Why?

Q7 [18:58] How is China expanding its people, assets, and values abroad?

Q8 [21:57] How is China using financial tools to support BRI, and what are the broader strategic ambitions at play?

Q9 [24:33] How is China seeking to reshape the international financial architecture?

Q10 [28:12] What triggered China’s desire to create a new set of international messaging and financing systems?

Q11 [30:08] We’ve seen several phases of BRI. What phase are we in now? What will happen next?

Q12 [34:27] As China increases its emphasis on soft power, should we expect a de-emphasis in the more tactile areas like infrastructure?

Q13 [35:19] What are the vulnerabilities facing BRI?

Q14 [40:20] Is China applying its soft power approach to the United States?

Q15 [41:56] How should the United States respond to China on any of the key fronts we’ve discussed?

Q16 [45:45] Is there anything about BRI that is obvious to you that other people still don’t appreciate?

Q17 [48:53] What grade would you give Xi on the recalibration of BRI?

About Asia Insight

The NBR podcast series Asia Insight features interviews with top Asia experts about key issues affecting the Indo-Pacific region, with a focus on implications for U.S. policy and businesses. Subscribe to Asia Insight on Apple Podcasts and let us know what you think of the podcast on Twitter.

Media Contact: Dan Aum, [email protected] or (202) 347-9767.

Asia Insight theme music is by Laura Schwartz of Bellwether Bayou.

This podcast was co-edited by Dan Lee and Matt Ropeik at NBR.

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