Opinion & Analysis

Global trends in countries‘ perceptions of the Belt and Road Initiative


Drawing on global media reports, we conduct a sentiment analysis of the image of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the evolution of its image over time. Our main finding is that perceptions of the initiative deteriorated significantly in many geographies from 2017 to 2022. The notable exception is in sub-Saharan Africa where the BRI’s image remains positive, even if slightly less so than in the past. This is notwithstanding increases in debt levels with China, much of which now face potential restructuring. Furthermore, we find significant inter- and intra-regional differences in the average sentiment towards China’s landmark project, as well as a much worse image of the initiative in countries which, until today, are not part of the BRI. Finally, we focus on the European Union, Africa and China’s immediate neighbourhood to better understand the complexities behind the perceived benefits and challenges associated with China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

About the Authors

Alicia García-Herrero

Alicia García Herrero is a Senior Fellow at European think-tank BRUEGEL. She is also the Chief Economist for Asia Pacific at Natixis, and a non-resident Senior Follow at the East Asian Institute (EAI) of the National University Singapore (NUS). Alicia is also Adjunct Professor at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. Finally, she is a Member of the Council of Advisors on Economic Affairs to the Spanish Government and an advisor to the Hong Kong Monetary Authority’s research arm (HKIMR) among other advisory and academic positions.

Robin Schindowski

Robin is a Research Assistant at Bruegel. His work focuses on the Chinese economy and its interactions with the international economic architecture. In particular, he is involved in the project “Dealing with a resurging China” under the Horizon Europe Fund.

Access the original publication here