The Belt and Road Initiative in the times of pandemic

Andreea Brinza | 5 April 2020

As the novel coronavirus spread from country to country, reaching the level of a pandemic, some voices pointed toward the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) as the main avenue of contagion. But had it been better implemented, the BRI could instead have been lauded as a champion of pandemic prevention.

Many people may not know that the BRI has a branch dedicated to facilitating communication among countries in order to prevent and control infectious diseases, create a platform for proper health services and the health industry, facilitate personnel training and medical research, and develop international assistance. The idea of what we might call BRI Health Cooperation was first mentioned in 2015, in the Three-Year Plan for the Implementation of the “Belt and Road Initiative” Health Exchange and Cooperation (2015-2017) as a short- and medium-term goal.

Unfortunately, today, five years after the proposal, the BRI health branch is just a fancy idea, mainly on paper. In reality, China has done too little to create an avenue for communication or the spread of information, technologies, and funds in order to build a community of experts and medical staff around the world. The only visible health-related steps that China has tenaciously promoted have been related to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). A plethora of MoUs regarding TCM were signed with BRI countries, in order to promote Chinese culture, and very few in order to consolidate BRI Heath Cooperation. While TCM might have a placebo effect on a patient, a community without frontiers focused on health problems would have revolutionized the world, helping developing countries in particular, and would have improved the BRI’s image across the world.



This article has been published by Andreea Brînză, Vice President of RISAP, in the The Diplomat. You can read the full article in The Diplomat.

Photo Credits: Hospital in Beijing (Flickr/Michael Coghlan)


Andreea Brinza

Andreea Brinza is a researcher and the Vice President of RISAP. Her interests are related to the geopolitics, geostrategy and geoeconomics of the Asia-Pacific region and especially China. Her research focuses on the Belt and Road Initiative.

Related Posts