The Green Belt and Road is China’s best leadership bet

Andreea Leonte | 30 April 2019

Seven years ago, in 2012, when China announced it wanted to build an ecological civilisation, it was hard to take it seriously.

The concept sounded good, but it was too much to hope for from the world’s biggest polluter. A year later, China launched the “Belt and Road Initiative” and, ever since, all eyes have turned in that direction.

As billions of dollars have started to pour into a plethora of eye-catching belt and road projects, many of which had nothing to do with the original purpose of restoring the old Silk Road, criticism has hit the project from all directions.

Growing increasingly sensitive, President Xi Jinping has made a recent timid attempt to define what kind of investments are welcomed under the belt and road umbrella. Has China identified an opportunity to give its belt and road a new identity? I believe it did.

As the environmental crisis is deepening, China’s 2012 “ecological civilisation” idea is ready to be brought back to the table, this time in the form of a green belt and road.

Rather than focusing on policies and investments that would create similar environmental issues in belt and road countries as the ones China is now facing – from urban smog, to rivers flooded with toxic contaminants – China and its partner countries could explore the opportunities for joint environmental action.

For the first time, China has the chance to start on an equal footing with its Western competitors, as nobody has yet found a comprehensive solution to all the environmental problems of our planet.



This article has been published by Andreea Leonte, Fellow for China Studies at RISAP, in the South China Morning Post. You can read the full article on the SCMP website.

Photo Credits: Qingxiu Mountain, China (Flickr/Vern Fong)


Andreea Leonte

Andreea Leonte

Andreea Leonte is Fellow for China Studies at RISAP. A Mandarin speaker, Andreea’s research interests focus on China’s foreign relations, China-Europe relations, the Belt and Road Initiative and the China-CEE 16+1 format.

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