China’s wildly ambitious Belt and Road Initiative, throughout its mere five-year existence, has been dominated by Chinese money and manpower. Hailed as a modern-day Silk Road, its purpose is to establish a regional order built around Chinese commercial, economic and security influence. Anyone was welcome to join, as long as they did so largely on Chinese terms.
Now, Beijing is starting to consider whether it might be better off bringing in outside partners – including one of its biggest rivals, Japan. Over the past year, Japan and China have been holding low-level discussions on possible BRI collaboration. During Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s recent visit to Beijing, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang formally invited Tokyo to journey together down the new Silk Road, while firms, agencies and universities from the two countries pledged to cooperate on more than 50 infrastructure projects in third countries.
Why Cooperation Makes Sense
China’s outreach seems to be at odd