Since Xi Jinping unveiled the “One Belt, One Road” strategy in 2013 in Kazakhstan, China has pledged nearly USD 1 trillion in development assistance and infrastructure spending in more than 60 countries. This massive and multi-faceted project—since renamed the BRI—has set in motion social, economic, and political transformations with the potential to reshape the globe. More than a development project, the BRI is a driver of normative change, a potential model of development, and a symbol of China’s power.

The initiative has the promise to be a “new Marshall plan,” with the potential to remake the global order just as its predecessor remade Europe. The BRI combines two broad efforts. The first is the “Silk Road Economic Belt,” consisting of a set of railways, highways, and pipelines that ultimately will connect central China to Western Europe. The second is the “21st Century Maritime Silk Road,” a network of ports and other coastal infrastructure to link China’s eastern seaboard to Southeast Asia through the Strait of Malacca, South Asia, the Persian Gulf, East Africa, and the Mediterranean. The BRI includes the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), with a capital base of USD 100 billion. In 2015, the two plans merged and were formalized as BRI. Investment comes from AIIB, the USD 40 billion Silk Road Fund, and China’s long-standing policy banks, particularly the China Development Bank.

Launched on a massive scale and with surprising speed, the BRI has to date spawned little research on the projects that will be constructed under its name. Still less research has explored the downstream social, political, and economic ramifications that these projects generate. With ventures underway across Eurasia, Asia, and beyond, many areas—including labor relations, migration patterns, and social mobilization, to name a few—have already begun to shift. Since further change will become visible in the future, the Belt and Road in Global Perspective seeks to put scholars into conversation with each other to take stock of these transformations as they develop.