research / Journal publications

Putting the BRI in perspective: History, hegemony and geoeconomics

February 10 2022

If successfully realised, the Belt and Road Initiative will be the most ambitious and expansive developmental project the world has ever seen. It is not, however, unprecedented. In the aftermath of the Second World War the United States developed what was then an equally unprecedented and ambitious initiative designed to simultaneously facilitate the (re)development of some of the world’s key economies and reinforce its own position as the leader of the western world. Both the American Marshall Plan and China’s BRI are important expressions of geoeconomic influence and power. This paper compares the two projects from the perspectives of ‘hegemonic transitions’ and ‘comparative hegemony’ in order to highlight some striking similarities and noteworthy differences, and gauge the prospects for the BRI and its possible scenarios. Comparatively speaking, the BRI does not have the same sort of compelling geopolitical imperatives and narrative that the emerging Cold War provided for American hegemonic leadership. The Chinese project also lacks the comprehensive global institutional architecture developed in the aftermath of the Second World War that facilitated American influence. Consequently, it may prove more difficult for China to utilise the BRI to translate potential geoeconomic leverage into the sort of hegemonic influence that the US enjoyed during the Cold War, despite its unparalleled ambitions.

Read the article online here.

Note: This article was published in Chinese Political Science Review.

Author: Mark Beeson, UTS:ACRI Adjunct Professor and Professor of International Politics at the University of Western Australia; Corey Crawford, University of Western Australia