Thought leadership initiatives promoted by social media are helping companies, consulting firms and professional services firms unlock opportunities along China’s vast Belt and Road infrastructure development initiative.
As the Economist and the World Bank have detailed, China’s Belt and Road initiative was launched in 2013 and is aimed at strengthening infrastructure, trade and investment links between Asia, Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. 71 other countries have joined the initiative, which collectively accounts for over 30% of global GDP, and 62% of the world’s population. And as the Guardian has detailed, China is spending approximately $150 billion dollars per year on a range of Belt and Road projects.
Belt and Road’s economic impact and opportunity for the private sector is made clear in a report last year from Reuters detailing that China has now become Germany’s largest trading partner, overtaking the United States. Notably, German government and trade association officials say they plan to continue efforts to expand trade with the greater Asia-Pacific region. And Belt and Road, of which Germany is an original member — is cited among the catalysts for this bilateral trade expansion.
Conversely, as a Nielsen report details, high-growth markets along the Belt and Road are now seen as “showing significant opportunity for Chinese brands looking to expand their operations overseas”.
Emerging Belt and Road Thought Leadership
The Belt and Road is geographically vast, and the power of the internet is already being harnessed by many to capitalize upon its’ opportunities far afield. Notably, China’s Foreign Office has written to encourage media cooperation along the Belt and Road to foster and promote the initiative’s success. In response, some accounting, legal, trade and investment firms have established sophisticated thought leadership positions as a means by which to attract new clients and increase their brand awareness along the 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. And Belt and Road Advisory, a consulting firm focused on Belt and Road opportunities, maintains the Belt and Road Blog which “encourage[s] a plurality of views on the BRI and…invite[s] guest contributors.”
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)”.
Too, leading think tanks, multinational organizations and news publications are publishing about Belt and Road in increasing frequency, including the Council on Foreign Relations, the World Bank, the Brookings Institution, The Diplomat and the Economist. And conferences about Belt and Road, often with substantial social media promotion, are occurring at increasing frequency. Some of these conferences have been conducted by the Milken Institute, the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, Cavendish Group International, ATWORK, Innovation Angel Funds, and INNO Innovation Space and the World Transportation Conference.
Create a Belt and Road Thought Leadership Initiative
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. And the World Economic Forum’s blog and social media channels are a superb example of thought leadership and social media promotion combined to promote international trade and investment.
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, clientele and revenue for firms that take up the challenge. Given the substantial opportunity Belt and Road offers, it would be wise for any company or organization seeking to generate revenue, brand awareness and expand their network in Belt and Road regions, to establish a Belt and Road-focused thought leadership position as a key organizational priority.
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