China is building a very 21st century empire—one where trade and debt lead the way, not armadas and boots on the ground. If President Xi Jinping’s ambitions become a reality, Beijing will cement its position at the center of a new world economic order spanning more than half the globe. Already, China has extended its influence far beyond that of the Tang Dynasty’s golden age more than a millennium ago.The most tangible manifestation of Xi’s designs is the new Silk Road he first proposed in 2013. The enterprise morphed into the “Belt and Road” initiative, a mix of foreign policy, economic strategy, and charm offensive that, nurtured by a torrent of Chinese money, is rebalancing global political and economic alliances. Xi calls the grand initiative “a road for peace.” Other world powers such as Japan and the U.S. remain skeptical about its stated aims and even more worried about unspoken ones, especially those hinting at military expansion. To assess the reality of Belt and Road from the ground up, Bloomberg Markets deployed a team of reporters to five cities on three continents at the forefront of China’s grand plan.
China’s Empire of Money Is Reshaping Global Trade