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This document provides an assessment of China’s changing approach towards the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic’s impact on China’s and the world economy along with the intensification of geopolitical tensions between China and the US have amplified certain pre-existing risks while also creating some opportunities. In response, the Chinese government has gradually begun to shift its approach to BRI, readjusting its priorities.

Going ahead, the progress of BRI will encounter significant hurdles. Economic recovery within China and among BRI partner states is likely to be a gradual process. The pace of project resumption can be expected to stabilise by late 2021, contingent on fresh outbreaks of infections and the pace of vaccination. Consequently, Beijing is likely to remain much more discerning with its investments. At the same time, one can expect Beijing to prioritise BRI partner states for vaccine distribution and extend loans for the procurement of doses as part of the Health Silk Road. Finally, Sino-US competition is unlikely to abate even if there is a change in leadership in Washington in November. This implies that geopolitical and technology risks for BRI will remain high in the near future.

BRI in the Post-Covid World_ Risks and Responses_Version 1.0 (1) (1)