• Aleksandra Nowicka

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)


Chinatown in London

One of the keys to securing a training contract is to be commercially aware. While looking for tips how to prepare yourself for an interview you’ll find few suggesting that one of the recruiter’s questions might be : "What is recently the most influential economic event?" To me, among others, it’s the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).


What is it exactly?

BRI is often described as a 21st century Silk Road which aim is to connect Asia, Africa and Europe via network (‘belt’) of overland corridors and maritime roads. The idea crystallized in 2013 as a result of China President’s Xi Jinping’s inspiration from the concept of the Silk Road established during the Han Dynasty 2,000 years ago – an ancient network of trade routes that connected China to the Mediterranean via Eurasia for centuries.

In fact the Belt and Road Initiative is a global development strategy under which there are five co-operation priorities of policy: co-ordination, facilities connectivity, unimpeded trade, financial integration, and people-to-people bonds. It is said to be launched to enhance cooperation and connectivity. “The Belt and Road Initiative implies creating a new model of international cooperation by strengthening the existing mechanism, as well as seeking and implementing new mechanism, with the aim of stimulating the economic development of the countries involved,” said Tajik President Emomali Rahmon.

Although BRI was created only six years ago, it has already achieved a lot, such as the 142 km Jakarta-Bandung high-speed railway, the 414 km China-Laos Railway runs from Boten, Colombo Port City in Sri Lanka, expansion of Piraeus Port in Greece, and Gwadar port in Pakistan. Given examples are only a petit part of what has been created from scratches, rebuilt, modernized or expanded in last six years.

The scope of BRI is incredibly broad, thus it gave reasons for some scepticism, as to China’s great influence on less powerful, and therefore vulnerable countries. There have been even concerns over the initiative being a form of neocolonialism. But should world be concerned about the project? It is still unknown.

What is certain, BRI is no longer only about infrastructure. China plans to set up international courts, in Shenzhen and Xi’an, to resolve commercial disputes related to Belt and Road. The courts, based on the judiciary, arbitration and mediation agencies of China’s Supreme People’s Court in Beijing, will follow international rules and will invite legal experts from outside China to participate. They will likely be modelled on the Dubai International Financial Centre Courts and the International Commercial Court in Singapore.

Next sure thing is that the project lives its own life engaging more and more countries including those from Europe. Great example is Italy who joined the Initiative in March last year.

But why such economic event is important from the legal point of view? Economic growth creates new legal entities, new job positions, and not-known before legal issues. And those require lawyers to deal with them. Subsequently, law firms might change via getting new prospect clients or via different sort of cases brought by them.


And for you, what is the most substantial economic/business event that might influence legal profession? Maybe Huawei ban and its aftermath, or the covid-19 pandemic (quite obvious one)?

Have a great day!

Alex

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