Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2018, Vol. 28 ›› Issue (9): 1249-1262.doi: 10.1007/s11442-018-1523-8

• Orginal Article • Previous Articles     Next Articles

The trade network of the Belt and Road Initiative and its topological relationship to the global trade network

Zhouying SONG1,2,3(), Shuyun CHE1,2,3, Yu* YANG1,2,3()   

  1. 1. Key Laboratory of Regional Sustainable Development Modeling, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
    2. Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
    3. College of Resources and Environment, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
  • Received:2018-01-05 Accepted:2018-03-20 Online:2018-09-25 Published:2018-09-25
  • About author:

    Author: Song Zhouying (1982-), PhD and Associate Professor, specialized in economic geography and regional studies. E-mail:

  • Supported by:
    CAS Priority Research Program, No.XDA20010102;National Social Science Foundation of China, No.17VDL008


Unimpeded trade is one of the cooperation priorities in the Belt and Road Initiative proposed by China. On 15 May 2017, the Joint Communique of the Leaders Roundtable of the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation reaffirmed the participants’ shared commitment to build an open economy and ensure free and inclusive trade. The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is not only China's new action to drive its open and global development, but also a platform for an increasing number of countries to explore free and inclusive trade and promote a universal, rule-based, open, non-discriminatory, and equitable multilateral trade system. It is therefore important to examine the topological relationship between the BRI and global trade networks. More specifically, this article first analyzes the community structure of trade networks using a community detection algorithm, and then estimates the topological relationship between different trade communities. The findings of this article are as follows. First, this research identified three trade communities and two sub-communities in the BRI trade network, in which China is the core, Russia is the sub-core of the biggest trade community, and India, United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia are cores of the second trade community (South Asia-West Asia). Second, it identified five trade communities in the global trade network, centred on China, USA, Russia, India-United Arab Emirates, and Germany-Netherlands-France-Britain and other European developed countries. Third, the topological analysis indicated that in the global trade network, most BRI countries are attracted by the core nodes of the BRI regions, such as the China, Russia and India-United Arab Emirates core nodes, and have strong trade contacts with BRI countries. Most Central-East European countries are mainly attracted by Germany-Netherlands-France-Britain and other developed European countries with a low penetration of BRI trade. Although some Southeast Asian countries are incorporated into the Asia-Australia-South Africa community with China as the core, they still need to strengthen trade linkages with BRI countries.

Key words: Belt and Road Initiative, global trade network, trade community, topological relationship