Time to start watching China's One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative.
Last month, 29 heads of states, mostly from small countries in Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Eastern Europe, but also from Russia and Italy, met in Beijing for the Belt Road Forum (India was notably absent). In all, China and some 60 other countries signed 317 major investment deals for transportation and energy infrastructure projects.
The initiative holds the promise was juicing China's economy for decades, and, at the same time, reducing overcapacity, giving work to its giant construction companies, increasing its political influence across large parts of the world that developed countries often overlook...the benefits seem endless.
OBOR also holds the threat of saddling China with huge financial burdens (a trillion dollars over the next decade) and perhaps little return, all as its economy slows.
But, the biggest threat in the near term is that Xi Jinping will see OBOR as an alternative to completing the economic reforms promised - but not delivered - in 2013's Third Plenum.
So, while we watch for OBOR's impact in emerging and frontier markets, in individual industries, and on commodities, we have to also keep an eye on how China integrates OBOR into the overall structure of the economy, the good and the not so good.
I had a terrific opportunity to learn about OBOR and its potential impact on China's economy from one of the great experts, Pieter Bottelier. Before joining the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), Pieter had a long career at the World Bank, which included serving as its China chief in Beijing. No westerner I know is better connected with China's top economists.