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Special Issue "Belt & Road Initiative in Times of ‘Synchronized Downturn’: Issues, Challenges, Opportunities"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 October 2021).

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Dr. Anna Visvizi
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
1. School of Business & Economics, Deree—The American College of Greece, 6 Gravias Street, GR-153 42 Aghia Paraskevi, Athens, Greece
2. Effat University, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Interests: smart cities; migration; innovation networks; international business; political economy; economic integration; politics; EU; Central Europe; China
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals
Prof. Dr. Miltiadis D. Lytras
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
School of Business, Deree—The American College of Greece, 6 Gravias Street, GR-153 42 Aghia Paraskevi Athens, Greece
Interests: cognitive computing; artificial intelligence; data science; bioinformatics; innovation; big data research; data mining; emerging technologies; information systems; technology driven innovation; knowledge management; semantic web
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The launch of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in 2013 triggered questions among experts and academics. Symptomatically, very little information about the initiative was available at that time, and so a sense of confusion was induced in the debate on BRI scope as well as its potential influence on all stakeholders involved. Connotations with the historical Silk Road had infused the debate on BRI not only with great expectations and hopes, but also with fears. Clearly, considering that China epitomizes export-led growth model, many observers argued that BRI might be just another way of facilitating Chinese exports. Also, caution has been recommended as regards the modes of financing BRI-related projects with regard to sustainable financing, potential indebtedness, and management of debt problems in borrower countries (Hurley, Morris, & Portelance, 2018). In the same context, implications for Southeast Asian regional architecture and the prospect of Sinicization have been stressed (Suehiro, 2017).

Six years into the official start of BRI, an understanding of what the initiative’s objectives are consolidates. This is reflected in academic research and more policy-oriented publications stemming from the think-tank sector (Albert, 2018; Gabuev, 2016; Jakóbowski & Kaczmarski, 2017; Visvizi et al., 2019). Notably, there is a growing recognition on the part of international organizations, such as the World Bank Group (WB), and other key players on the international scene, such as the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), to mention just these two, that serious consideration should be given to BRI and its implications. At the same time, developments on the ground suggest that in as much as BRI embodies a bold vision of the future, it is also beset, like the original Silk Road, by a variety of contingencies and constraints (Blanchard & Flint, 2017; Kozłowski, 2018).

Current developments pertinent to international trade, including trade wars, unstable political and economic environment, military conflicts, and the prospect of ‘synchronized slow-down’ (Georgieva, 2019) place BRI and its dynamics in a new context. The objective of this Special Issue is to examine the broadly defined implications thereof from a variety of disciplinary perspectives. The intention of the Guest Editors is to encourage and streamline conceptually sound and empirically grounded research on BRI, thereby making this Special Issue a reference for the broad community of researchers, academics, and practitioners.

The Editors of the Special Issue welcome papers that address, but are not limited to, the following issues and topics.

Examples of topics of interest include:

  • BRI and contemporary business environment: issues, developments, implications;
  • BRI and sustainability: climate, resources, society;
  • BRI and domestic/international regulatory frameworks;
  • BRI and the business sector: B2B, BMI, HRM;
  • BRI and infrastructure: transportation, electricity, networks;
  • BRI and sophisticated information and communication technology (ICT): from distributed information systems to AI and their application;
  • BRI and smart cities: an insight into the role of (smart) cities in building competitive advantage along BRI;
  • BRI and the Arab Peninsula: insights into regional developments;
  • BRI and regional collaboration schemes: from ad hoc collaboration to strategic alliances;
  • BRI and innovativeness: R&D, innovation policies, strategies, approaches, comparative insights;
  • BRI and international organizations: rethinking multilateralism;
  • BRI: case studies, prototypes and project deliverables related to OBOR;
  • Covid-19 inflicted implications.

Prof. Dr. Anna Visvizi
Prof. Miltiadis D. Lytras
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2000 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Belt & Road Initiative
  • International/global collaboration
  • International business
  • Sustainability: Climate, resources, society
  • competitiveness & innovativeness
  • Global business management
  • Business model innovation
  • Policy-making
  • Sustainable development
  • European Union
  • China
  • FDI
  • Smart cities
  • Big data
  • Analytics

Published Papers (8 papers)

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Editorial

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Editorial
Belt and Road Initiative in Times of ‘Synchronized Downturn’: Issues, Challenges, and Opportunities
Sustainability 2022, 14(3), 1164; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/su14031164 - 20 Jan 2022
Viewed by 153
Abstract
In 2013, the launch of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) triggered questions among experts and academicians [...] Full article

Research

Jump to: Editorial

Article
Big Data-Based Assessment of Political Risk along the Belt and Road
Sustainability 2021, 13(7), 3935; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/su13073935 - 02 Apr 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 942
Abstract
Political risk assessment has become increasingly important in recent years, especially with the launch of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and with Covid-19 still ravaging the world. This study aims to assess systematically the political risk of BRI countries during the period [...] Read more.
Political risk assessment has become increasingly important in recent years, especially with the launch of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and with Covid-19 still ravaging the world. This study aims to assess systematically the political risk of BRI countries during the period from 2013 to 2019 based on three big data sets, the Global Database of Events, Language, and Tone (GDELT), China Global Investment Tracker (CGIT), and Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED). It is found that to properly quantify the political risks for BRI countries, the type of events, “Material Conflict”, and a variable characterizing the degree of cooperation/conflicts of the events, the Goldstein Scale, are of critical importance. Based on the chosen type of events and variable, we design a normalized variable to assess political risk of any country in any year so that comparison among different countries can be meaningly made. By decomposing political risk into two components, domestic and international, and examining the spatiotemporal evolution of political risk along the Belt and Road, we find that the sum of the number of BRI countries with the extremely high level and the high level of domestic, international, and (overall) political risk all reached the peak in 2015, and decreased thereafter, and that often the level of domestic political risk along the Belt and Road was higher than the international political risk. It is also found that a strong positive correlation exists between political risk and China’s total investments and construction contracts along the Belt and Road during this period. The implications of this positive correlation are discussed. The analysis presented here may help to promote the sustainable development of BRI, and be extended to examine the risks associated with foreign investments other than BRI projects. Full article
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Article
Can Existing Theories Explain China’s Outward Foreign Direct Investment in Belt and Road Countries
Sustainability 2021, 13(3), 1389; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/su13031389 - 29 Jan 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1057
Abstract
This study examines the extent to which existing foreign direct investment (FDI) theories apply to Chinese investment in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) countries. This is important because existing explanations of Chinese outward FDI (OFDI) generally make scant reference to these theories. [...] Read more.
This study examines the extent to which existing foreign direct investment (FDI) theories apply to Chinese investment in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) countries. This is important because existing explanations of Chinese outward FDI (OFDI) generally make scant reference to these theories. By using OFDI data for BRI countries between 2003 and 2017, we tested hypothesizes applicable to existing theories by using both pooled ordinary least squares (PLOS) and stochastic frontier analysis (SFA) methods. The results show that a large part of the existing theories apply to Chinese OFDI. Chinese OFDI is likely to choose countries with big market size, abundant natural resources, cheap unskilled labor, stable politics, good infrastructure, high trade cost and high investment cost. These positive findings notwithstanding, they do not invalidate the alternative factors cited by commentators which have not been subject to direct testing, which may require the use of qualitative analytical approaches. Full article
Article
Towards Local Sustainability of Mega Infrastructure: Reviewing Research on the New Silk Road
Sustainability 2020, 12(24), 10612; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/su122410612 - 18 Dec 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 778
Abstract
The Belt and Road Initiative is the leading project in the regions along the ancient Silk Road. This aims to revive the New Silk Road (NSR) as a transnational space towards an era of new regional integration and globalization. Despite the potential economic [...] Read more.
The Belt and Road Initiative is the leading project in the regions along the ancient Silk Road. This aims to revive the New Silk Road (NSR) as a transnational space towards an era of new regional integration and globalization. Despite the potential economic effects on a global scale, local sustainability remains questionable. Building upon the central engagement in infrastructure improvements, this article aims to investigate the role of local sustainability in research along the New Silk Road. Starting with 597 scientific articles, this article conducts a systematic literature review on four levels of concretization to characterize the research field of the New Silk Road, and to develop in-depth insights systematically. The results reveal a research focus on economic growth, which is lacking in environmental considerations and especially the socio-cultural dimension of sustainability on a local scale. Future directions in local sustainability should therefore include local stakeholders to build a joint understanding of sustainability by recognizing the characteristics of regionalism upon which manifold local support of mega infrastructure can evolve. Given these findings, the New Silk Road emerges as a field of study that calls for interdisciplinary research on different spatial levels. Full article
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Article
Reversing Uncontrolled and Unprofitable Urban Expansion in Africa through Special Economic Zones: An Evaluation of Ethiopian and Zambian Cases
Sustainability 2020, 12(21), 9246; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/su12219246 - 06 Nov 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 577
Abstract
Despite the growing attention on uncontrolled and unprofitable urban sprawling in many African countries, few pragmatic solutions have been raised or effectively implemented. While uncontrolled and unprofitable urban expansions happened primarily due to poor land use management and dysfunctional land market, the cost [...] Read more.
Despite the growing attention on uncontrolled and unprofitable urban sprawling in many African countries, few pragmatic solutions have been raised or effectively implemented. While uncontrolled and unprofitable urban expansions happened primarily due to poor land use management and dysfunctional land market, the cost of land management enforcement and reform is high. This paper suggests that the recently re-emerging special economic zones (SEZs) in Africa could be a practical way of using government intervention to reduce uncontrolled urban expansion and optimize urban land use. By evaluating the spatial impacts of two SEZs on their host cities in Ethiopia and Zambia, this paper demonstrates that SEZs could notably change urban expansion in terms of its speed, direction, and spatial structure. By using SEZs as an experimental area for land policy reform, the government can also effectively unlock a profitable urban development model with the functional primary and secondary land market. However, the diverging results in Ethiopia and Zambia also show that the optimizing effect can be significant only when the government is participatory and can fulfil its public function, including delivering proper planning in advance, lunching land policy reform, and even executing compulsory land acquisition for public interests. Full article
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Article
Evaluation Research on Planning Implementation of Chinese Overseas Economic and Trade Cooperation Zones along the Belt and Road: Evidence from Longjiang Industrial Park, Vietnam
Sustainability 2020, 12(20), 8488; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/su12208488 - 14 Oct 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 972
Abstract
Chinese Overseas Economic and Trade Cooperation Zones (COCZs) under the “One Belt and One Road” initiative are committed to promoting inclusive and sustainable industrialization, becoming an important platform for the countries and regions where they are located to achieve the sustainable development goals [...] Read more.
Chinese Overseas Economic and Trade Cooperation Zones (COCZs) under the “One Belt and One Road” initiative are committed to promoting inclusive and sustainable industrialization, becoming an important platform for the countries and regions where they are located to achieve the sustainable development goals of the 2030 agenda. The planning of COCZs plays a strategic leading and rigid control role in the sustainable development of parks, and the planning implementation effectiveness evaluation has been a key to the sustainable development of COCZs. From the perspective of sustainable development, we established a rating system depending on the deconstruction “effectiveness = efficiency + effect + benefit + capacity” to measure the planning implementation effectiveness evaluation indexes of COCZs, and conducted empirical research based on the evidence of Longjiang Industrial Park, Vietnam. The research results show that Longjiang Industrial Park has a good planning implementation effectiveness with remarkable comprehensive economic, social, ecological and political benefits. It features a good efficiency, effect and benefit from an excellent production capacity, reflected in the consistency between spatial planning and implementation results and a high satisfaction with planning implementation. However, planning implementation is also faced with problems such as the lag of time, imbalance between profit and loss, uneven achievement of goals, and lack of a refined planning control system. To make COCZs more sustainable in development and planning, the suggestion is, on the one hand, to accelerate the establishment of a regular and institutionalized mechanism for the planning preparation and implementation evaluation of COCZs, and bring sustainable development into the management requirements, and, on the other hand, to promote the transformation of COCZs planning from “Function and Scale Orientation” to “Quality and Effectiveness Orientation”, and guide the creation of a model for sustainable development and the planning of COCZs. Full article
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Article
The United States’ Clothing Imports from Asian Countries along the Belt and Road: An Extended Gravity Trade Model with Application of Artificial Neural Network
Sustainability 2020, 12(18), 7433; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/su12187433 - 10 Sep 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 808
Abstract
In 2013, China announced the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which aims to promote the connectivity of Asia, Europe, and Africa and deepen mutually beneficial economic cooperation among member countries. Past studies have reported a positive impact of the BRI on trade between [...] Read more.
In 2013, China announced the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which aims to promote the connectivity of Asia, Europe, and Africa and deepen mutually beneficial economic cooperation among member countries. Past studies have reported a positive impact of the BRI on trade between China and its partner countries along the Belt and Road (B&R). However, less is known about its effect on the sectoral trade between the B&R countries and countries that show little support of the BRI. To address that gap, this study examines the changing patterns of clothing imports by the United States (US) from China and 14 B&R countries in Asia. An extended gravity model with a policy variable BRI is built to explain bilateral clothing trade flow. A panel regression model and artificial neural network (ANN) are developed based on the data collected from 1998 to 2018 and applied to predict the trade pattern of 2019. The results show a positive effect of the BRI on the clothing exports of some Asian developing countries along the B&R to the US and demonstrate the superior predictive power of the ANN. More research is needed to examine the balance between economic growth and the social and environmental sustainability of developing countries and to apply more advanced machine learning algorithms to examine global trade flow under the BRI. Full article
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Article
How the Belt and Road Initiative Informs Language Planning Policies in China and among the Countries along the Road
Sustainability 2020, 12(14), 5506; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/su12145506 - 08 Jul 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 969
Abstract
Given that the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has penetrated most, if not all, fields in China and the countries along the road, this paper attempts to join the existing literature by providing a unique perspective (language planning) to understand the BRI and [...] Read more.
Given that the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has penetrated most, if not all, fields in China and the countries along the road, this paper attempts to join the existing literature by providing a unique perspective (language planning) to understand the BRI and its impacts. The article presents the way in which the BRI has informed language planning policies among China and approximately 65 countries along the road. From an ecological standpoint, it proposes how BRI language planning aims at promoting and constructing a language-and-discourse ecosystem. Taking an interpretive policy analysis method, it analyzes policy documents and the existing literature by elaborating upon the planners, purposes and principles involved in designing the language planning initiative. Specifically, different ministries, departments and committees have worked together to propose a systemic, sustainable language plan for BRI; BRI language planning then serves communication, discourse power, global governance and socioeconomics purposes. Under the overarching ecosystem planning, specific planning principles, including Chinese language status planning, foreign language planning, language structure planning, language-in-education planning and language service planning, co-evolve to sustain the system. Instead of simply depicting the language-and-discourse ecosystem, this article also discusses challenges that BRI language planning initiative might meet along the way of its implementation, including the avoidance of making language unity the same as language imperialism, and continued efforts to balance language internationalization and language localization. Full article
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