International Law

China’s Belt & Road Initiative: A Critical Analysis of BRI - A 7-part symposium

Fall ’20 and Winter ’21

Committee Sponsor: Belt and Road Task Force

Committee Sponsor: Belt and Road Task Force

About the 7-part Symposium

China’s Belt & Road Initiative is a vast and complex global development strategy involving infrastructure development and investments in well over 100 countries. It includes projects throughout Asia, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, the island countries of the Pacific and the Caribbean, and the Americas (Central and South). This massive infrastructure development includes physical entities such as railways, bridges, roads, etc., as well as digital. There is also a geopolitical side to the ambitious economic expansion of China’s “reach” as it seeks to solidify its own supply chains and economically dependent countries in what Beijing perceives as a post-American world.

The American Bar Association’s International Law Section has created this 7 part course designed to provide lawyers with a deeper understanding of China’s Belt & Road Initiative. While each of these 7 programs are valuable as stand-alone programs and can each be attended on that basis, they are also designed as building blocks to provide an important educational foundation for international practitioners going forward. A course completion certificate will be provided for those registrants who attend all 7 programs.*

*A Certificate of Completion for the China BRI Symposium will issued to those attendees who have attended either a live or a recorded version of each of the 7 programs by September 30, 2021 and who so certify their attendance. This is not a CLE series.

Programs and Schedule

There are 7 programs in the symposium.

Suggested Prerequisite:
Symposium or individual program attendees are strongly encouraged to view the foundational program on this symposium (“Understanding China’s Belt and Road Initiative and U.S. Legal and Policy Efforts to Address It “) which was initially offered as a part of the Section’s Virtual Conference on June 18, 2020.

**If you registered for the program on June 18, you may access the on-demand CLE webinar using the original access / confirmation details provided via email. If you did not register for the program, you may purchase access to the program.

The faculty for the various symposium programs will assume attendees already have this foundational understanding covered in this program. All programs will be presented via ZOOM.

1. September 30, 2020: “China’s Global Ambition”
1:00 – 2:30 EDT

Committee Sponsor: Belt and Road Task Force

This program examines the shifts in the policy objectives of China’s Communist Party since the Cultural Revolution and how these policy shifts have impacted China’s relationship with the United States. The more recent changes since Xi Jin Ping came to power are emphasized. The program  will lay out not only the policy objectives of the CCP, the attitudes of the leadership towards the United States and the western democracies, but also the tactical means that China has been utilizing to achieve the Party’s objectives. This program will also illustrate how China’s specific economic model serves the Party’s policy objectives so well.

  • Historical perspective on the restoration of the Middle Kingdom to its rightful place following the “Century of Humiliation”
  • What is China’s dual currency system and how does it insulate the economy from outside attacks and forces, like the trade war?
  • Key policy shifts from the “bide your time” era to today’s “wolf diplomats”
  • CCP view promoted in China as to the threat democracy poses to the stability and well being of society
  • Impact of the new Hong Kong National Security Legislation
  • China’s attempts to isolate Taiwan.
  • What are the real, underlying objectives for China’s Belt & Road Initiative? It is a tactical tool for what?


  • David F. Day, Esq., Chair, Belt & Road Task Force, ABA International Law Section


  • Dr. Elizabeth G. Chan, Esq., CEO, Global Risk Mitigation Foundation; Steering Committee for the Central/East Asia & China Committee; and Chair of the ABA Committee on Infrastructure Development Finance, a part of Belt & Road Task Force ABA’s International Law Section
  • Capt. James Fanell (USN Ret.), Former Director of Intelligence and Information U.S. Pacific Fleet
  • Michael Sacharski, Former Senior Executive for GTE China (now Verizon) and a 3+ decade U.S. executive working and residing in the PRC

2.  October 29, 2020:  “The Digital Silk Road – Technology colonization and the U.S. squeeze-out”  

The Digital Silk Road (DSR) is a subset of the Belt and Road initiative and carries China’s tech sector in a pervasive commercial penetration each of the 100+ BRI countries and it includes virtually every Chinese IT service, platform, option, software and app.  The DSR includes advantageous financing for purchases of Chinese tech equipment and services, including telecommunication equipment, fiber-optic cables, and surveillance systems. How is China’s Digital Silk Road a tactical tool for the CCP and for what objective?

  • What is the Big Data risk for the Host countries along the Digital Silk Road?
  • The Technology characteristics for 5G surveillance enhancement and the AI shaping of public opinion. How are these tech tools ready – built for surveillance and varying types of control?
  • What is China’s strategic plan to surpass the United States as the new  global leader in tech?
  • Where China has control of the internet and communications backbone of country, what are the risks for lawyers and clients operating in such an environment?

Moderator and Program Chair: Geoffrey Goodale, Esq. Partner at Duane Morris, Washington, D.C., Co-Chair of the International Section's National Security Committee and a member of the Belt & Road Task Force.

Speakers (partial list committed to date):

Dr. Jonathan D.T. Ward.
Author of "China's Vision of Victory" and an internationally recognized expert on China's global strategy and U.S - China competition. Dr. Ward is the Founder of the Atlas Organization, a Washington, D.C.based group advising firms on China strategy and China-related issues.

3.  November 18, 2020: “Political Influence – the warfare of ideas”

An integral part of China’s BRI strategy involves the countering and shaping of ideas. This program is aimed at developing a better understanding of the nature and extent of China’s political influence campaign leveled at, not only the U.S., but also the Host BRI countries. It also addresses steps being taken to counter the influence or “Beijing programming,” as well as others that can be implemented.

  • What are the purposes and scope of China’s influence operations?
  • What is China’s capacity to execute political influence or information campaigns?
  • How do you identify a political influence/warfare operation?
  • Recent case studies of Covid-19-related influence campaigns initiated against private sector companies and organizations, national governments, and individual political leaders.
  • How do national governments and private sector organizations counter political influence campaigns?


David F. Day, Esq., Chair, Belt & Road Task Force, ABA International Law Section

Speakers (partial list committed to date):

Prof. Kerry G. Gershaneck, Professor and Taiwan Fellow at the National Chenghi University in Taipei, Taiwan. Recognized global expert on Political and Information Warfare and author of the forthcoming book,  “Political Warfare: Strategies for Combating China’s Plan to ‘Win without Fighting.’”(Marine Corps University Press, 2020)

4.  December 17, 2020: “The U.S. Competitive Response to the BRI – Pushback or too little, too late?”

This program looks to developing an understanding of the current status competitive response or pushback by the U.S. to China’s BRI on a global scale.  There are a number of complex, legal moves that the U.S. has made over the last 2 years which lawyers in international practice need to be familiar with.

  • Is there a strategy?
  • What is the U.S. currently doing to offer a competitive response to China’s Belt & Road Initiative and its Digital Silk Road component?
  • What additional steps can the U.S. take to improve its competitiveness with China among the BRI countries?
  • What are the risks and what advice should you consider providing to those clients electing to participate in the BRI?

Speakers (partial list committed to date):

Paul B. Edelberg -  a partner at Fox Rothschild LLP, New York City, former Co-Chair Central/East Asia & China Committee and a member of the Belt & Road Task Force.

5.  January 14, 2021: “China’s BRI in the post-CoVid- 19 World”

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a crippling effect upon many countries, including our own. Many of the developing countries who have joined the BRI are facing economic situations far worse and are now forced to deal with unmanageable China debt burdens.  The concern is now whether some BRI projects face foreclosure and handover like Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port or whether the debt will be renegotiated.

  • Where does China stand economically in a post-covid world?
  • What happens to China’s entire Belt & Road Initiative stand in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic?
  • What do U.S. firms do for supply chain reorganization, on-shoring, diversification and new markets?
  • What are other countries doing to enable the “Chexit” of their businesses from China?
  • How do the USMCA and the new U.S./U.K. trade deals fit into this picture?
  • What about other options and markets (Latin America, Vietnam, India, Taiwan, the EU, Japan, etc.)
  • Is there a trend towards the polarization of trading blocs with the emergence of a “reliable allies” market?

6.  February 11, 2021: “The Belt & Road Lawyer”  

This program addresses many inquiries of members of the Bar seeking to understand more of the nuances and background necessary to more effectively assist clients participating in goods or services projects to compete in BRI counties or with Chinese SOE firms. It also looks to the career preparation important to undertake such representation as well as advising BRI Host country governments or government entities.

  • Preparing your client for dealing with a Chinese State-Owned Enterprise (SOE).
  • What do you do if you do not have the Host country experience of expertise?
  • Options for combatting the PRC predatory financing option your client may face
  • Assisting the Host Country BRI client
  • The dispute resolution challenge for clients, whether Host government, or private sector, participating in BRI projects
  • Career preparation and resources

Moderator and Program Chair: Dr. Elizabeth G. Chan, Esq, CEO, Global Risk Mitigation Foundation; Steering Committee for the Central/East Asia & China Committee; and Chair of the ABA Committee on Infrastructure Development Finance, a part of of the Belt & Road Task Force

7.  April 14, 2021: “The Future of the U.S. China Relationship—Trade and otherwise”

(to be held “Live” at the Annual Meeting in Miami, FL in April of 2021)

This final program in the Section’s China BRI Symposium will be conducted live at the Section’s 2021 Conference. It explores the varying viewpoints on how the United States might conduct its relationship or dealings with China going forward.

  • “Decoupling” between the U.S. and China’s economies, how far will it go?
  • The concept of a comprehensive trade agreement with China. Is that in the cards?
  • Is there a mechanism that would permit the disparate business norms of the U.S. and other Western countries/firms and China to work more efficiently on an economic or trade basis?
  • What is the role of American “soft power” in the future of the U.S. China relationship or in competing with China?
  • Where does Taiwan fit into both the U.S. China relationship in the future and U.S national security?

Registration Information

Section Member - $35
ABA Member -  $70
Non-Member - $105
per webinar

To register, please click on the titles above.


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CLE Information

CLE will not be offered for this symposium.

Contact Us

If you have any questions about the conference, please contact or call 202-662-1660.