Implications of the COVID-19 Pandemic on China’s Belt and Road Initiative
Mouritz, Frank

The article examines the short- and long-term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The temporary shutdown of economies around the world has disrupted global supply chains, which has caused major delays in BRI infrastructure projects and increased the costs. For the time being, China and BRI partner countries will have to divert attention and resources to fighting the spread of the virus and providing relief for their economies. Thus, a serious slowdown for the BRI is inevitable. However, the long-term consequences are still uncertain at this point and will depend, to a large degree, on how long Corona will set back the world economy. China seems determined to carry on with the BRI no matter what, but the question arises if China's economy will recover quickly enough and if Beijing has the financial reserves to keep up the high level of commitment and support for the BRI. If China manages to sustain the BRI throughout the pandemic, Corona can open up opportunities to use "mask diplomacy" and BRI healthcare infrastructure projects to increase Beijing's global standing and the local acceptance for the BRI. Given the changed circumstances, BRI countries are well advised to review their participation in the BRI by giving due consideration to the short-term and possible long-term effects. They should consider if they can still afford these infrastructure projects even if they take longer to finish, are more expensive and generate a smaller economic impact.

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