President Xi Jinping announced the Belt and Road Initiative in 2013. The BRI promotes economic cooperation and cultural exchange between China and countries around the world. The word “belt” refers to overland routes from China to the west, including the ancient Silk Road through Central Asia, Iran and Turkey to Europe. The word “road” refers to a sea route—the ancient Maritime Silk Road that started in China and stopped in Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, India, Kenya and Djibouti, among other places, before reaching Europe.
The Belt and Road Initiative’s geographic scope now extends far beyond these overland and sea routes. The Chinese government reports entering into bilateral cooperation agreements with more than 120 countries in connection with the BRI. Chinese official media discuss projects in Latin America as part of the BRI. The Belt and Road Initiative has become a broad framework for significant parts of China’s foreign policies.
President Xi Jinping has convened two Belt and Road Forums in Beijing. The first, in May 2017, was attended by 29 heads of state and representatives from more than 60 countries. The second, in April 2019, was attended by 36 heads of state (including 12 from Europe) and representatives from more than 100 countries.
The Belt and Road Initiative has been incorporated into the Constitution of the Chinese Communist Party. Within the Chinese government, a Leading Small Group on Advancing the Construction of the Belt and Road and BRI office within the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) help supervise BRI activity. BRI leading small groups have been created within ministries and provincial governments.
As of October 2018, Chinese companies had participated in roughly 6000 infrastructure projects under the Belt and Road Initiative, according to China’s State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC). Roughly half were undertaken by state-owned enterprises controlled by the central government, according to SASAC. Projects developed under the BRI include roads, railways, ports, pipelines, transmission lines and power plants.
 For background on the Belt and Road Initiative, see the Chinese government’s Belt and Road Portal; State Council, Action plan on the Belt and Road Initiative (March 30, 2015); Yuen Yuen Ang, “Demystifying Belt and Road,” Foreign Affairs (May 22, 2019); Nadège Rolland, A Concise Guide to the Belt and Road Initiative, National Bureau of Asian Research (April 11, 2019); Andrew Chatzky and James McBride, “China’s Massive Belt and Road Initiative,” Council on Foreign Relations (May 21, 2019); David Sandalow and Xu Qinhua, Belt and Road Initiative Green Development Conference, Columbia University and Renmin University (November 19–21, 2017).
 Zhu Wenqian, “China has signed 171 B&R cooperation documents,” China Daily (March 7, 2019); Cui Can, “Green Belt and Road Initiative powered by new energy projects,” China.org.cn (April 28, 2019).
 “Second Belt and Road Forum Top-Level Attendees,” The Diplomat (April 27, 2019); Shannon Tiezzi, “Who Is (and Who Isn't) Attending China's 2nd Belt and Road Forum?,” The Diplomat (April 27, 2019); “Ministry of Foreign Affairs briefing—April 19, 2019,” Second Belt and Road Forum website (accessed August 10, 2019).
 Nadège Rolland, A Concise Guide to the Belt and Road Initiative, National Bureau of Asian Research (April 11, 2019).
 “Central enterprises undertake 3116 projects along the “Belt and Road,” State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (October 31, 2018); James Suokas, “Chinese state enterprises undertake over 3,100 Belt and Road projects,” GB Times (October 31, 2018); Wang Yajie, “SASAC unveiled the latest transcripts of the “One Belt, One Road” of central enterprises, with a total profit of over 100 billion,” eeo.com.cn (October 30, 2018).
 Zheping Huang, “Your guide to understanding OBOR” (May 15, 2017).