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Belt and Road Initiative is a chance for China to deepen reform

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has been deemed China’s most important foreign policy project since it was first proposed in 2013. With the conclusion of the high profile Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, the initiative has gained new momentum. While the initiative is often perceived as a diplomatic effort, it also has domestic significance. The authorities should take advantage of the opportunity provided by the initiative to push forward a reform agenda, which, in turn, could foster the success of the BRI.

With its focus on Central Asia, one objective of the BRI is to address China’s own unbalanced regional development, by linking China’s less prosperous inland and western regions to the external market. In a 2015 guideline, the government outlined six domestic “economic corridors” that would be connected to the BRI, which include 18 provinces and regions, 13 of them inland. The far western region of Xinjiang, for example, is identified as the “core” region of the Silk Road economic belt.

To achieve this goal, China needs to make serious efforts to push forward local reforms in these inland areas. Compared to the prosperous eastern coast, where economic development has nurtured a more efficient and transparent governance structure, the quality of governance in the inland and western regions has lagged far behind.

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Issue 49

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