Belt and Road growing in size and scope

The growing impact and importance of China’s Belt and Road international infrastructure development initiative was on display last week in Beijing as leaders from 28 nations gathered to discuss enhancing cooperation on the initiative.  

During the Summit Chinese President Xi Jinping, as Fortune detailed, “urged major multilateral institutions to join [Belt and Road] while pledging $124 billion in support [of] the initiative.”

Belt and Road:  A vast initiative presents vast opportunity

As Belt and Road spans 65 countries and represents 60 percent of the global population and approximately one-third of global GDP, the initiative has generated keen interest among professional services firms, trade and investment facilitation organizations, governments, infrastructure finance and development companies and others that might help assist in the work associated with the vast project.

Indeed, as the Times of India detailed last week:  “Inspired by the Silk Road, the medieval trade routes between Europe and Asia, the OBOR project will be a vast network of land and maritime routes across dozens of countries. It will impact 4.4 billion people. China is said to be spending $1 trillion on it.  It is not one project but six major routes which will include several railways line, roads, ports and other infrastructure.”

And as legal services sector consultant Mark Cohen observed in Bloomberg Big Law Business in 2015 “China’s “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR) development strategy enacted in 2013 might prove a catalyst for a Silk Road Sequel, this time featuring China’s participation in cross-border, cross-continent, and global delivery of legal services.”

Big4 accounting takes a leadership role in Belt and Road thought leadership

Some accounting, legal, trade and investment firms are beginning to stake-out thought leadership positions as a means by which to attract new clients and partners to increase their respective roles in Belt and Road.  

Notably, all of the Big4 accounting firms have begun to write extensively on Belt and Road, including Ernst & Young (EY), Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and KPMG.  Asia-Pacific region accounting firm Dezan Shira has established Silk Road Briefing. And international law firms Norton Rose Fulbright and King & Wood Mallesons have also established a growing body of work devoted to Belt and Road subjects.  

Perhaps the most significant hub of information on Belt and Road to date comes from the Hong Kong Trade and Development Council (HKTDC).  And PwC’s initiative is a unique standout as it now publishes the PwC B&R Watch —  a “review of capital project and deal activity in the countries that fall under the Belt and Road Initiative (B&R)”

Early days yet for Belt and Road thought leadership

It remains early days for Belt and Road thought leadership.  And firms that might wish to become an early adopter thought leader on Belt and Road still have time to do so.  

Well-planned and carefully cultivated — thought leadership initiatives benefit those organizations that undertake them.  McKinsey Quarterly is perhaps the most high-profile example of this success.  

Well designed to appeal uniquely to key Belt and Road audiences, a sophisticated thought leadership position staked out now will likely yield more Belt and Road-related publicity and revenue for firms that take up the challenge.

Posted by John Grimley

John Grimley edits and publishes Asia Law Portal and is the author of A Comprehensive Guide to the Asia-Pacific Legal Markets. He specializes in providing writing, editing, research and strategy services to the corporate and professional services sectors. Between 2002 and 2008, he established and directed the European representative business development office of US AmLaw 100 law and public policy firm Patton Boggs LLP. At the inception of his career, he served as a writer to the President of the United States in the White House. A licensed American lawyer, he holds a Juris Doctor from the University of San Diego School of Law.

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