The Belt and Road Initiative: Shaping the Narrative of a China Story

Media Coverage | August 21, 2018

Mapping the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), one can easily get lost in the amount of information available. Hundreds of projects and nearly a trillion dollars’ worth of investments currently exist in over 60 countries. A serious analysis of each project must take into account a variety of factors, including funding sources, implementing partners, budget estimates, progress reports, as well as local needs and concerns.  

However, the BRI is much more than an investment plan aimed at improving connectivity among countries. The most important effect of the BRI regards how China’ is stepping up its effort to shape a narrative about itself – telling the China story. In this regard, the Chinese leadership is deeply aware of the importance of public diplomacy and institution building to improve its soft power. While the idea of a China story has been around since 2004, President Xi picked it up in 2013 and has been referring to it in various speeches ever since, urging Chinese leaders to play their role. From international summits to cultural associations, examples abound of different entities contributing to the development of a China story. Through the BRI, China has stepped up its reputation-building effort in an unprecedented way that will have long-lasting consequences on the world stage. 

In comparison with another widely common slogan, the Chinese Dream, there remains a subtle, but clear distinction. The Chinese Dream attempts to guarantee high living condition to every Chinese citizen, based on a flourishing and harmonious society. The China story instead refers to the ability to of designing China’s own narrative about its values and history to be projected outward to the rest of the world. Even though the Chinese Dream and the China story are related to a certain extent, the BRI remains an international initiative whose effects regard the narrative presented to other countries. 

Read the full article here on Foreign Policy Association.

Image: "Secretary-General Addresses Belt and Roa" (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) by United Nations Photo