BRI, Connectivity Strategy, EU, China, geopolitics, rules-based
This paper offers a systematic comparison between the EU Connectivity Strategy for Asia and China’s Belt-and-Road Initiative, the world’s two most significant connectivity plans for economic development. It discusses geopolitical factors inherent in both initiatives such as the tension between a unilateral and a rules-based system of Asia-Europe connectivity and highlights key differences and synergies between them. The aim of this article is to help foster pragmatic and goal-oriented dialogue between the EU and China that leads to shared principles of connectivity. The EU Connectivity Strategy for Asia and China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), share similar goals in boosting sustainable growth and trade across the continents through investments in critical infrastructure. The key question is to what extent will the EU be able to craft a rules-based alternative to China's state-led economic ambition. A sense of competition between the BRI and the Connectivity Strategy will likely change both initiatives for the better, however stronger commitment from the part of the EU will be necessary if it wants to be able to match China’s development model in third countries and sustain its privileged position as the world’s largest trading block.