Skip to Main Navigation
BRIEF March 29, 2018

Belt and Road Initiative


The Belt and Road Initiative includes includes 1/3 of world trade and GDP and over 60% of the world's population.

Overview | At a Glance | Research | Blogs 


China proposed the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in 2013 to improve connectivity and cooperation on a transcontinental scale.

Quantifying the impacts of the initiative is a major challenge, which is why the World Bank Group has produced empirical research and economic models that assess the opportunities and risks of BRI projects.

Since May 2018, the World Bank Group has produced a series of 19 background papers (available below) and one summary report that provide independent analysis of the BRI’s links to trade, investment, debt, procurement, environment, poverty reduction and infrastructure.

Our research presents data that enables policymakers in countries along BRI corridors to make evidence-based assessments of how to maximize the benefits and minimize the risks of participating in the BRI. The research also aims to inform the public debates surrounding BRI, by grounding the discussion in data and analysis.

Download Belt and Road Economics


At a Glance

How big is the Belt and Road Initiative?

China has presented the BRI as an open arrangement in which all countries are welcome to participate. However, an official list of participating countries does not yet exist.

In our research we have focused on 71 economies geographically located along BRI transport corridors, including China. In 2017, these economies received 35% of global foreign direct investments and accounted for 40% of global merchandise exports.

How much does the initiative cost?

For the 70 BRI “corridor economies” (excluding China), projects in all sectors that are already executed, in implementation, or planned are estimated to amount to US$575 billion.

What potential opportunities does the initiative present?

If completed, BRI transport projects could reduce travel times along economic corridors by 12%, increase trade between 2.7% and 9.7%, increase income by up to 3.4% and lift 7.6 million people from extreme poverty.

What risks are involved with BRI projects?

The BRI presents risks common to many major infrastructure projects: debt risks, governance risks (corruption and procurement), stranded infrastructure, environmental risks and social risks.

What needs to happen for the initiative to succeed?

BRI transport projects have the potential to substantially improve trade, foreign investment, and living conditions for citizens in participating countries—but only if China and other corridor economies adopt deeper policy reforms that increase transparency, expand trade, improve debt sustainability and mitigate environmental, social and corruption risks.



A Framework to Assess Debt Sustainability and Fiscal Risks under the Belt and Road Initiative, Bandiera, Tsiropoulos; June 2019 (English)

Common Transport Infrastructure : A Quantitative Model and Estimates from the Belt and Road Initiative, De Soyres, Francois; Mulabdic, Alen; Ruta, Michele; April 2019 (English)

The Belt and Road Initiative: Reshaping Economic Geography in Central Asia?, Bird, Julia Helen; Lebrand, Mathilde Sylvie Maria; Venables, Anthony J.; April 2019 (English)

The Belt and Road Initiative: Economic, Poverty and Environmental Impacts, Maliszewska, Maryla; Van Der Mensbrugghe, Dominique, April 2019 (English)

Who Wins, Who Loses? Understanding the Spatially Differentiated Effects of the Belt and Road Initiative, Lall, Somik V.; Lebrand, Mathilde Sylvie Maria; April 2019 (English)

Assessing the Value of Market Access from Belt and Road Projects, Reed, Tristan; Trubetskoy, Alexandr; April 2019 (English)

Reducing Environmental Risks from Belt and Road Initiative Investments in Transportation Infrastructure, Losos, Elizabeth Claire; Pfaff, Alexander;Olander, Lydia Pauline; Mason, Sara; Morgan, Seth; January 2019 (English) 

Investment Protection Along the Belt and Road Kher, Priyanka; Tran, Trang Thu; January 2019 (English) 

Trade Effects of the New Silk Road: A Gravity Analysis, Baniya, Suprabha; Rocha Gaffurri, Nadia Patrizia; Ruta, Michele; January 2019 (English)

How Old is the Belt and Road Initiative? Long Term Patterns of Exports to BRI Economies, Constantinescu, Ileana Cristina; Ruta, Michele; December 2018 (English)

Logistics Infrastructure Along the Belt and Road Initiative Economies, Wiederer, Christina Katharina, December 2018 (English)

Public Procurement in the Belt and Road Initiative, Ghossein, Tania; Hoekman, Ronald; Shindal, Anirudh; World Bank Group, December 2018 (English)

The Growth and Welfare Effects of the Belt and Road Initiative on East Asia Pacific Countries De Soyres, Francois Michel Marie Raphael,  World Bank Group, October 2018 (English)

How Much Will the Belt and Road Initiative Reduce Trade Costs? François de Soyres, Alen Mulabdic, Siobhan Murray, Nadia Rocha, Michele Ruta, World Bank Group, October 2018 (English)

Foreign Investment across the Belt and Road: Patterns, Determinants and Effects, Maggie Xiaoyang Chen and Chuanhao Lin, October 2018

Connectivity Along Overland Corridors of the Belt and Road Initiative, Charles Kunaka, Ben Joseph Romain Derudder, and Xingjian Liu, October 2018

Trade Facilitation Challenges and Reform Priorities for Maximizing the Impact of the Belt and Road Initiative, Marcus Bartley Johns, September 2018

Exposure of Belt and Road Economies to China Trade Shocks, Paulo Bastos, World Bank Group, June 2018

Trade Linkages Between Belt and Road Economies, Mauro Boffa, World Bank Group, May 2018


Managing the Risks of the Belt and Road, Martin Raiser and Michele Ruta, June 2019

Winners and losers along China's Belt and Road, Indermit Gill, Somik V. Lall, and Mathilde Lebrand, June 2019

How can countries better manage investment risks along the BRI? by Trang Tran and Priyanka Kher | Published on  03/15/19

Is a Green Belt and Road Feasible? How to Mitigate the Environmental Risk of BRI Infrastructure Project by Elizabeth LososAlexander PfaffLydia OlanderSara MasonSeth Morgan | Published on  01/29/19

Hurry up! How the Belt and Road Initiative Changes Trade Times and Trade, by Nadia RochaSuprabha BaniyaMichele Ruta | Published on  01/28/19

Public Procurement in the Belt and Road Initiative by Tania GhosseinBernard HoekmanAnirudh Shingal | Published on 12/20/2018

A Look at Logistics within Belt and Road Economies by Christina Wiederer | Published on 12/18/2018

How Much Will the Belt and Road Initiative Reduce Trade Costs? by Michele Ruta | Published on 10/16/2018

Foreign Investment Growth in the Belt and Road Economies by Maggie Xiaoyang Chen | Published on 10/11/2018

Six Corridors of Integration: Connectivity Along the Overland Corridors of the Belt and Road Initiative by Charles Kunaka | Published on 10/04/2018

Beyond Infrastructure: Trade Facilitation Priorities for the Belt and Road Initiative by Marcus Bartley JohnsJulian Latimer ClarkeClay KerswellGerard McLinden | Published on 09/17/2018

Exposure of Belt & Road Economies to China Trade Shocks by Paulo Bastos | Published on 07/18/2018

Trade Linkages Among Belt and Road Economies: Three Facts and One Prediction by Michele Ruta | Published on 05/31/2018

3 Risks and 3 Opportunities of the Belt and Road Initiative by Michele Ruta | Published on 05/04/2018


Michele Ruta

Lead Economist, Macroeconomics, Trade & Investment