Skip to main content

Photo: “Tiananman Gate“, by allen watkin, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0. Hue modified from the original

Deng, Yong. “How China Builds the Credibility of the Belt and Road Initiative.” Journal of Contemporary China (2021): 1-17.


Despite persistent skepticism towards the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), many countries have signed on to the program and even more countries have come to believe in its transformative potential to development finance and the global order. How has the illiberal Chinese government succeeded in convincing the world, particularly the Global South, about its commitment and BRI’s future success? Exploring the credibility puzzle, this article argues that the Xi Jinping administration has relied on an all-in strategy tying the BRI to China’s national development and foreign policy, promoting the BRI through select international institutions, and launching a series of flagship mega-projects. With mounting sustainability challenges on both economic and geopolitical fronts, however, the BRI now has to scale back its ambitions while China reevaluates its strategic opportunity.

The Illiberalism Studies Program studies the different faces of illiberal politics and thought in today’s world, taking into account the diversity of their cultural context, their intellectual genealogy, the sociology of their popular support, and their implications on the international scene.