Introduction to the Special Issue—China’s Belt and Road Initiative: the View from East Asia


The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), formerly known as One Belt One Road (OBOR), has emerged as one of the top priorities for Chinese President Xi Jinping ever since he unveiled the initiative in 2013. This special issue surveys the reception of BRI in East Asia. As China’s immediate neighborhood, this region will play an important role in determining whether Beijing’s signature project will succeed in the mid- to long term. However, research has thus far mostly focused on BRI’s reception in Central Asia and (Eastern) Europe. In this introduction, we first provide an overview of the literature by identifying three main strands of interpretation on BRI, namely those focusing on geoeconomics, on geopolitics, and on international norms as well as order. Next, we provide a review of the contemporary research on both Southeast Asian and Northeast Asian perceptions of and policy responses to BRI. Finally, we discuss research gaps in the literature and provide an overview of case studies and findings in this special issue. We conclude by identifying recurring themes and characteristics in East Asian responses to BRI.

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This special issue is based on the proceedings of a workshop held in Berlin in January 2018, which was generously funded by the Robert Bosch Foundation. We would like to thank the Foundation for its support.

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Correspondence to Alexandra Sakaki.

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Heiduk, F., Sakaki, A. Introduction to the Special Issue—China’s Belt and Road Initiative: the View from East Asia. East Asia 36, 93–113 (2019).

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  • Belt and Road Initiative
  • Chinese foreign policy
  • Asian geopolitics
  • Asian geoeconomics
  • Liberal order