Commentry | China’s Belt and Road Initiative and International Business: The Overlooked Centrality of Politics

Arie Y. Lewin1 and Michael A. Witt2
1The Fuqua School of Business, Duke University, 100 Fuqua Drive, Durham, NC27708, USA;
2INSEAD, 1 Ayer Rajah Avenue, Singapore 138676, Singapore

MAWitt, INSEAD, 1 Ayer Rajah Avenue, Singapore 138676, Singapore

What is the significance of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) for international business research? Most studies in the field have approached this question from the perspective of the individual firm or industry, with an emphasis on its business or economic impact. Yet the BRIis, at its core, a political initiative that plays out domestically and internationally. Our objective for this commentary is to complement the existing IB literature on the BRI by outlining the domestic and geopolitical objectives of the BRI and linking them to big, new IB research questions. Domestically, we stress the importance of the BRI for the legitimacy of Communist Party rule in the context of slowing growth and overcapacity. At the international level, we explore the role of the BRI in advancing China’s geopolitical position, not least vis-a`-vis the United States, as well as its potential to provide a nucleus around which a new, alternative world economic order may form. We conclude with a discussion of implications for policy and business research in IB.
Keywords: China; Belt and Road Initiative (BRI); decoupling; de-globalization; world order; international relations

Journal of International Business Policy (2022).