The Belt and Road Initiative is now part of the constitution

The 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China cemented Xi Jinping’s legacy, and thus the BRI, in China’s constitution.

Written by Quartz Creative on behalf of HSBC

Mentioning Xi by name in the “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era” included in the constitution is seen as a particular honour, one reserved for leaders on the order of Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping. But beyond the broad philosophical points of the Xi Jinping Thought, the constitution was further amended to specifically commit to pursuing the Belt and Road Initiative as a means of “achieving shared growth through discussion and collaboration.”

With these changes, China is signaling that the BRI is much more than a correlated set of infrastructure projects. “Elevating the BRI is a way of saying this is a fundamental, integral part of our conception of the world and how the world should be organized,” says Dr. Dwight Perkins, professor emeritus of political economy at Harvard’s Kennedy School. “Because normally you wouldn't put a particular investment project in there.”

Seen in this light, the BRI has a fundamental place in the future of Chinese foreign policy, well beyond Xi’s next five-year term. “Inclusion in the CPC constitution makes the BRI a national project for China,” says Dr. Jagannath P. Panda, research fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses. “Making it 'national' means the dealing-making authorities in China—SOEs, Chinese domestic banks, and other institutions—will be expected to perform, deliver and execute their projects to a higher level.”

For Panda, the elevation of Xi Jinping Thought and the BRI in the constitution signals the end of the “promotional” phase for the BRI and the beginning of its “execution” phase. “In the next five years, Xi Jinping's second tenure, China will sign a lot of agreements and deals,” says Panda. “Already many agreements with neighbouring countries are being considered and implemented.”

A feature by Quartz Creative

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