Honors College

Document Type

Honors Thesis


International Affairs


Kristin Vekasi

Committee Members

Kenneth Hillas Jr., Seth Singleton, Stefano Tijerina, James Warhola

Graduation Year

May 2020

Publication Date

Spring 5-2020


The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a large-scale, global infrastructure project introduced by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013. The primary goal is to invest in infrastructure projects across Eurasia and Africa in an effort to improve regional connectivity. This research explains who participates in the BRI through cross-country quantitative analysis and two in-depth qualitative case studies. Through a logit analysis of political economy factors such as GDP per capita, FDI inflows, aid data, and others, I find that economic need is a significant predictor of membership as well as previous involvement in Chinese organizations such as the AIIB. Two case studies into prominent BRI members – Kazakhstan and Italy – explore why different countries decide to participate, and the economic benefits and political controversies following that decision. Kazakhstan was the first official member of the initiative and was where Chinese President Xi Jinping announced the commencement of the BRI’s overland section. Italy joined in 2019 and was the first of the G7, and largest EU economy, to join. Overall, this project will allow for an understanding of why so many nations are joining the BRI and what participation signifies. This analysis is important due to the complex nature of the BRI and the varying responses and impacts it has generated worldwide, including immense criticism within the United States and many of their allies.