Working paper

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

In this paper, we have analysed the sentiment towards the Belt and Road Initiative in the world using a large open-access dataset, namely GDELT.

Publishing date
25 April 2023
Belt and Road Forum


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.

The authors thank Grégory Claeys, Mikko Huotari, Matthias Stepan, Marie Le Mouel, Jeromin Zettelmeyer, Séverine Arsène, Alessia Amighini and the participants in a Bruegel event on this topic for their valuable comments.


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.

    In previous years, Alicia held the following positions: Chief Economist for Emerging Markets at Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria (BBVA), Member of the Asian Research Program at the Bank of International Settlements (BIS), Head of the International Economy Division of the Bank of Spain, Member of the Counsel to the Executive Board of the European Central Bank, Head of Emerging Economies at the Research Department at Banco Santander, and Economist at the International Monetary Fund. Alicia has maintained a part-time academic life throughout her career as Visiting Professor at John Hopkins University (SAIS program), at the China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) in Shanghai, Carlos III University in Madrid among others.

    Alicia holds a PhD in Economics from George Washington University and has published extensively in refereed journals and books (her publications can be found in ResearchGateGoogle ScholarSSRN or REPEC).

    Alicia is also very active in international media (Bloomberg and CNBC among others) as well as social media (Twitter and LinkedIn). Alicia was included in the TOP Voices in Economy and Finance by LinkedIn in 2017 and #6 Top Social Media leader by Refinitiv in 2020.

  • 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.

    He studied Contemporary Chinese Studies (BA) at the University of Tübingen - including a semester at Peking University and a semester at Fudan University in Shanghai. He holds a master's degree in Economics from La Sorbonne in Paris and the University of Paris-Saclay, with the second year fully funded as a scholar of the German Academic Exchange Service. He wrote his master's thesis on the impact of patronage networks in the Chinese government on economic outcomes. Between his bachelor's and master's degrees, he worked as an industry consultant at Deloitte Consulting in Germany, where he conducted projects in the field of supply chain management with a regional focus on the Asia-Pacific region.

    Robin is a native German speaker, fluent in English, and full working knowledge of French and Mandarin. 

Related content