Sign in or register
for additional privileges

C2C Digital Magazine (Fall 2022 - Winter 2023)

Colleague 2 Colleague, Author
Cover, page 15 of 22


You appear to be using an older verion of Internet Explorer. For the best experience please upgrade your IE version or switch to a another web browser.

Book review: Data-based development strategies for BRI nations?

By Shalin Hai-Jew, Kansas State University


Economic Growth and Wellbeing:  Evidence from the Belt and Road Initiative Countries
Raufhon Salahodjaev
Nova Science Publishers
160 pp.

If one were to only read the title of the edited text, Economic Growth and Wellbeing:  Evidence from the Belt and Road Initiative Countries, one could assume that the chapters in the edited text would be about BRI investments and infrastructure building and other endeavors for the particular target countries and regions.  

One would not expect there to just be statistical analyses of various public data at the national and regional levels to understand macro-level dynamics that promote economic development and well-being (with data from years prior to BRI’s advent).  One would not expect patterned data analytics using high-level statistical analyses of particular variables, directly measured and proxied.  

Little about the Belt and Road Initiative in the Text

Raufhon Salahodjaev’s collection, Economic Growth and Wellbeing:  Evidence from the Belt and Road Initiative Countries, is created by faculty of the Tashkent State University of Economics, based in Uzbekistan, a Central Asian Nation.  The editor apparently uses “BRI” as an organizing principle (a grouping approach) for the analysis of target countries even though the targeted countries are not the complete set of BRI countries and perhaps not even the most apt description for the respective independent countries.  (Foreign direct investment or “FDI” does not or should not affect that country’s sovereignty, but geopolitics can get complicated.)  

Perhaps the reference to the BRI bit was to infuse some glamor into the book’s contents.  With the right expectations, the collection offers an interesting read about macro-scale levers that affect national economies, ceteris paribus.  However, there is a bad residual taste from a misleading title and cover.  

Policy Implications for National Economic Development

Raufhon Salahodjaev’s  Economic Growth and Wellbeing:  Evidence from the Belt and Road Initiative Countries (2022) opens with a question.  What explains countries that have achieved rapid growth and development?  The two contributors to the Preface write:  

…countries such as China, Lao PDR, Vietnam, Uzbekistan and Mongolia were in the list of most rapid growing countries in the period of 2000-2020.  As a result, these countries have considerably increased quality of life, standards of living and life satisfaction…The present book attempts to build up on existing empirical research to offer all-encompassing evidence on some of the drivers and correlates of economic growth and quality of life in the Belt and Road Initiative countries.  We explore the relationships between renewable energy and CO2 emissions, financial development and economic growth, institutional and life satisfaction, among others. (Salahodjaev & Kongratbay, Preface, 2022, n.p.)  

This collection offers some analytical works to identify some of the macro-level mechanisms for economic development and population wellbeing in countries with emerging markets.  The findings are fairly intuitive, with no sharp surprises.  The analytics tend to be fairly straightforward, without much the way of unusual explorations.  This is also not a collection to glean for rare data since the data are mostly from public datasets (the World Bank, United Nations, the World Happiness Report, and so on).  The analytics were informed by “conventional theories and econometric estimations methods (Ordinary Least Squares, two-step Generalized method of moments, cointegration) (Salahodjaev & Kongratbay, Preface, 2022, n.p.).  The cointegration of variables from time-series data is a common feature in the works, with the identification of variables of interest, and then testing them for association and trends (whether deterministic and predictable, or stochastic and random).  

A major observation, based on data analysis, is a known-known.  Two contributors to the text observe that “…renewable energy, financial development, quality of institutions and human capital are instrumental for long-run economic growth and wellbeing of nations” (Salahodjaev & Kongratbay, Preface, 2022, n.p.).  Ethical leadership and governance is important for the well-being of respective populations.  The education of a population is important for development.  A country’s development has a direct effect on people’s living standards, in many cases.  

The reviewer was hard-pressed to find anything about the BRI initiatives in any particular country or region.  Perhaps the initial intent was to focus on BRI, but the actual works never materialized (at which point a new title and cover should have been slapped on the collection).    

Roles of Tourism in a Country’s Economic Growth

Sharipov Kongratbay’s “Tourism and Economic Growth” (Ch. 1) explored for any association between tourism and economic growth in “BRI countries” during 2000 – 2019 based on a two-step Generalized Method of Moments (GMM) estimator.  The data start before BRI started.   The author writes:  “In particular, 1 percentage point increase in the size of tourism receipts as relative to GDP leads to 0.15 percentage points growth in GDP” (Kongratbay, 2022, p. 1), which shows the importance of tourism to the countries’ gross domestic product.  That insight, though, is intuitive, and it does not show deeper insights.  The researcher notes the rise of Uzbekistan in terms of tourism, as one stand-out example country.  This work does offer some in-depth summaries of others’ research that captures something of the complexities of tourism in a country’s development.  

There were some insights about the control variables, too, such as finding that GDP growth “is faster in countries with higher investment rates” (Kongratbay, 2022, p. 14) but also that “greater government size inhibits economic growth” (p. 14).  Foreign direct investment (FDI) and “renewable energy” are negatively related to GDP growth “in BRI countries” (p. 14).  Perhaps FDI and renewable energy both require state provisions of tax breaks, investments, build-outs of infrastructure, training up of personnel, and such, which may result in lower GDP.  The gains from both FDI and renewable energy may require years to realize.  

Financial Investments + Trade Liberalization = Economic Growth?  

Eshov Mansur’s “Financial Development, Trade Openness and Economic Growth” (Ch. 2) focuses on 43 economies in the BRI from 1995 – 2018.  This researcher suggests that financial development and trade liberalization contribute to the economic growth (as indicated by per capita GDP) of the BRI countries given their “historical background and geography” (p. 19).  This work also found the following:  “The effect of the financial development index is slightly greater, highlighting the relative importance of well-developed financial markets over the trade shares” (p. 19).  [If the BRI involves some 147 countries in the world from all levels of development, reading about the supposed shared characteristics of history and geography may be misleading.]  This work found a “positive long-term association between trade and income per capita, as well as between financial development index and income per capita” (Mansur, 2022, p. 19).  

Similar to the other works in this collection, this work offers a level of depth in summarizing the research literature.  There is, here, too, a lack of details about which countries’ data were included.  Readers have to take it on faith that the general grouping of countries referred to were those included.  Then, there is an in-depth explication of how the modeling was done, which data variables were proxied and how, and then the  statistical analyses.  The suggested policies are generally good-sense ones, such as having policy makers develop the financial sector and “adopt export-oriented policies to stimulate economic growth” (Mansur, 2022, p. 31).  

The author writes:  

…we assess the long-term relationship between financial development, trade and economic development in 43 Belt and Road economies between 1995 – 2018.  Our findings demonstrate a positive long-term association between trade and income per capita, as well as between financial development index and income per capita.  Coefficients are significant at p < 0.01.  Considering the historical background and geography of Belt and Road economies, trade still remains a significant growth factor. The effect of the financial development index is slightly greater, highlighting the relative importance of well-developed financial markets over the trade shares. (Mansur, 2022, p. 31)  

Given that only one author is cited, the use of the plural “we” is not explained.  In developing countries, human and financial capital advance together (p. 32), and innovations are critical to help countries develop.  

Promoting Financial Development and Usage of Renewable Energy Usage

Abdurakhmanova Gulnora’s “Financial Development and Renewable Energy Consumption” (Ch. 3) asks what the effect of financial development is on renewable energy consumption in both Europe and Central Asia from 1995 – 2015.  [Note that BRI did not start until 2013…so the data precedes BRI, which makes the book collection’s title even more problematic in usage per the early paragraphs in this review.]  This work uses Pedroni’s cointegration test to explore panel time-series data to explore for a potential long-term co-integrating relationship between the studied variables.  Also, the ARDL-PMG re-estimate was used to calculate short- and long-term coefficients (p. 35).  The researcher found “negative and significant relationship between financial development and renewable energy consumption in the short term and positive and significant relationship in the long term” (p. 35).  

A narrative may be overlaid to the findings.  Initially, countries are “growth-oriented” and “focused more on carbon-intensive sectors” (Gulnora, 2022, p. 35).  Then, in the longer run, “…climate issues and shortage of natural resources may facilitate the adoption of renewable energy sources” (p. 35).  Real-world cases would be helpful to explicate some of the data, which is abstract.    

The author describes how “financial development” as a variable was created as a composite of “credit to the private sector, liquid liabilities of the banking system, and the ratio of gross domestic savings” (Gulnora, 2022, pp. 38 - 39).  The DV was “financial development,” and the IV was renewable energy consumption “measured as % of total final energy consumption” (p. 40).  The idea is to develop sustainably.  The countries selected for inclusion were because the statistical analysis methods “prefer a strongly balanced datasets, which does not allow us to include countries with data gaps and interpolation may distort the results” (p. 40).  [Again, which countries were included were not specified directly.]  This work closes with some ideas for governments to advance environmental sustainability projects, through various financial incentives, and other approaches.  

Mass-Scale Quality of Life and Government Institutions

Raufhon Salahodjaev “Institutions and Quality of Life” (Ch. 4) asserts an important tie between government and governance…and societal wellbeing for citizens.  Researchers in this space suggest how fragile government is and yet how critical for healthy, functioning societies.  This study involves data from 1990 – 2019.  This researcher found that  “…1 standard deviation increase in quality of governance is associated with slightly less than half-standard deviation increases in” societal well-being (p. 55).  Life satisfaction was found to decrease with a reduction in employment (p. 55).   

The operationalization of the research affects what may be discovered.  How variables are constructed, where the data comes from, how the data is cleaned, and how the statistical analyses are conducted all affect research outcomes, so the explanatory depth is critical.  Is “societal wellbeing” as a variable referring to quality of life?  Life expectancy?  Nutrition?  Healthcare?  Or is societal wellbeing measured based on two instruments (the life satisfaction index and life expectancy)?  [For this study, it is the latter.  The point here is that the meaning that people put into a construct matters, and similar semantics do not mean similar underlying data or understandings.]  Gaps which exist across the works—such as which countries’ data are included—is a weakness across multiple works.  Also, the dependencies of the research on the various contributions of data, instruments, theories, and statistical processes, affect the quality and robustness of the overall work and may suggest a need to qualify insights.  

Sub-indexes were also assessed as well and showed mixed results.  Going with top-line summaries is one thing, but the nuances also have to be understood.  

Globalizing into an Overheating World

Akram Ishnazarov and Feruza Shamsieva’s “Globalization and Carbon Emissions” (Ch. 5) explores “the relationship between KOF globalization index and carbon dioxide emissions” in BRI economies with data from 1995 – 2015.  This study found “positive and significant short- and long-term relationship between KOF globalization (as a composite index) and CO2 emissions” (p. 71).  The researchers suggest the present of a “causal relationship” between the two variables instead of mere association.  Also finding that “a bi-directional relationship between de facto and de jure globalization exists,” that is between globalization in fact and in actions of the state, from the studied data.  

The researchers write about historical vs. present-day globalization, as relates to BRI:  

Historically, 71 economies, different in socio-economic, political and cultural context, were connected by a caravan road from East Asia to the Mediterranean in the Middle Ages, representing one of the earliest forms of globalization.  Nowadays, their commitment to international cooperation is even stronger.  The Belt and Road Initiative includes 1/3 of world trade and GDP, and over 60% of the world’s population.  (Ishnazarov & Shamsieva, 2022, p. 72)

This research aligns with other studies that show a positive association between globalization and environmental degradation based on carbon dioxide emissions.  The researchers note that so much of “prosperity is still largely dependent on extensive energy use” (p. 84).  

Balancing Tourism with Carbon Emissions and Renewable Energy

Zebo Kuldasheva and Anastas Khachaturov’s “Carbon Emission, Tourism and Renewable Energy” (Ch. 6) also focuses on the global challenges of climate change, due to human activities.  This study explores whether there are long-run associations among CO2 emission levels, tourism development and renewable energy, in 42 countries of the BRI, with data from 1995 to 2015.  Implied may be continuation of certain trends and generalizations to other similar countries.  Ultimately, the researchers did find long-run cointegration among the three studied variables over time.  Tourism contributes to carbon emission.  Renewable energy use is negatively associated with carbon dioxide emissions in the long run.  They did not find evidence for the validity of the Environmental Kuznets Curve (EKC) model.  And  “…the results of Granger causality procedure show the uni-directional strand from CO2 emission to renewable energy and bi-directional nexus between carbon emission and the level of tourism development” (p. 89).  The findings are fairly intuitive here perhaps because such patterns of changes over time (deltas) and interrelationships between variables may be seen in other contexts in the world.  Of note, how the variables change over time depends in part on human will and changes in human behaviors.  

Variables Tied to Psychological Depression in Russia (2011 – 2018)

Askarova Feruza “Socio-Economic Correlates of Depression” (Ch. 7) focuses on data from Russia from 2011 to 2018.  Based on various regressions, the researcher found that “marriage, having children, a higher education, employment, a good state of health, and better financial situation decrease the risk of experiencing a nervous disorder or depression” (p. 119).  The researcher also found that depression is more common in young adulthood and decreases into middle age. [The Russian Federation is in the northernmost of the three East-West continent-spanning belts connecting the Asian continent with Europe…and other throughout the world except North America.]  Those living in urban areas experience less depression than rural, in Russia.  

Environmental Health of a Country and its Population’s Long-Term Orientation

Is there an association between how the peoples of a country looks at the world and its ability to handle the serious environmental challenges of the present?  Or said another way, more intuitively:  Do people’s ability to think in the long-term potentially enable them to forgo a short-term but environmentally costly splurge for a better future (an abstract sense of a healthier environment)?  So asks Raufhon Salahodjaev in “Culture and Environmental Performance:  The Case of Long-Term Orientation” (Ch. 8). In this work, which involves a cross-country analysis, the patience or long-term orientation is the independent variable, and the environmental quality of the nation is a dependent one.

The researcher summarizes:  “Our cross-country analysis shows that long-term orientation is significantly and positively related to the Environmental Performance index (EPI)” (Salahodjaev, “Culture…,” 2022, p. 139).  To show the gap, the researcher writes:  A country with the highest long-term orientation vs. the country with the lowest had a 13.4 point increase in the Environmental Performance index (almost one standard deviation of performance difference) (p. 139).  The EPI is a composite variable.  The model here uses a control variable to control for possible confounding effects of other factors that might affect the environmental performance.  A scatterplot of the research findings shows a fair amount of diffusion, though, in the association between long-term orientation and the EPI (p. 143).  

In a sense, a long-term view might be a kind of cultural emotional intelligence, with an understanding of possible long-term implications of decisions and actions taken today.  The researcher used some other cultural variables from Gert Jan Hofstede’s cultural dimensions work.  The researcher “found that trust and individualism are positively linked to environmental quality”; in contrast, power distance and uncertainty avoidance were negatively linked to the Environmental Performance Index (EPI) (p. 146).  

The findings do have implications for government outreach to citizenry and for policymaking.  

Where is the BRI Information?

If there were to be a book about China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) as the nation-state invests in developing countries around the world, some of the following questions might be expected:  

  • What are the policy objectives of the PRC in its multi-trillion BRI endeavors?  
  • What do the respective agreements look like that countries enter into to be part of the BRI with the Chinese government?  
  • How tenable are the servicing and ultimate repayment of the debts for the countries who sign on to BRI?  
  • Are there other options from other world powers (or financial entities) in terms of funding for particular projects?  Are there others willing to offer expertise for building out roads and complex infrastructures?  
  • Has the People’s Republic of China’s “belt and road” initiatives advanced the developed and developing countries in which they were applied?   How have their initiatives possibly hindered the respective countries?  
  • What are some of the social tensions that have arisen around BRI, and how have they been addressed?  
  • How do BRI endeavors compare with other comparable programs in the world?  
  • What are the relationships between China’s BRI and World Bank and other such global programs?  
  • Does BRI reflect in the 4IR space, or are the technologies not quite there?   
  • What are net positives for the world?  Net negatives?  

Figure 1.  Map of China (by Msnox, by Ligtvoet on Wikimedia Commons)


Inquiring minds might be better going to mass media reports and the crowd-sourced Wikipedia page if they want to know more than to read the book that will be reviewed.  Fudan University offers a listing of countries that have been part of the belt and road initiative, including a world map with the countries marked.  There are certainly other resources, too.  The dashboard shows 43 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, 35 in Europe and Central Asia, 25 in East Asia and the Pacific, 20 in Latin American and the Caribbean, 18 in the Middle East and North Africa, and 6 in South Asia.  Of these, 34 are high income countries, 42 in the upper middle income bracket, 41 in the lower middle income bracket, and 30 in the low income one.  There is a slider that may be used to filter by year.  

Figure 2.  ¥ (Yuan) Symbol


The visual might suggest that the investments are in yuan or renminbi, but that may not be so in every BRI case.  Rather, these are likely expenditures in various denominated currencies.  


Raufhon Salahodjaev’s  Economic Growth and Wellbeing:  Evidence from the Belt and Road Initiative Countries (2022) offers topline findings that align with the extant literature.  A common theme across these works is that a competitive free-market approach can be highly beneficial to governments and citizens.  There are pockets of debates in certain countries and among some national leaders on these points, however.  There is general agreement that a non-warring and peaceful world is the optimal context for mutual wellbeing and development.  

As of March 2022, some 147 countries in the world have signed on to the Belt and Road Initiative, which started in 2013.  More precise studies, with named countries, and more specific data…would enhance the text if the work were only about hard research and data analysis.  

Is the inclusion of the BRI in the title a way to attract the attention of the policymakers in China, to show the seriousness of the respective countries for responsible nation-state development?  Does it mean anything that politics (or anything impolitic) were not addressed in this collection per se?  Certainly, governments (much less global superpowers) do their due diligence before they invest FDI in another country.  And regardless of the text's approach, the Western accusations of China engaging in debt-trap diplomacy will not simply disappear.  Others suggest that BRI is about the internationalization of the renminbi (RMB) and efforts to de-dollarize the world (moving from the U.S. greenback as the default global reserve currency, with the attendant advantages for the U.S. and its allies). 

Figure 3.  World


This work does contribute insights to those working in global development, BRI or not.  Perhaps this is a public conversation that needs to be had about the BRI and President Xi Jinping’s vision for an interconnected world brought together around development and trade. 


Belt and Road Initiative.  (2022, Sept. 16).  Wikipedia.  Retrieved Sept. 16, 2022, from  

Countries of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).  (2022).  Fudan University. Retrieved Sept. 13, 2022, from  

About the Author

Shalin Hai-Jew works as an instructional designer / researcher at Kansas State University.  Her email is  
Comment on this page

Discussion of "Book review: Data-based development strategies for BRI nations?"

Add your voice to this discussion.

Checking your signed in status ...

Previous page on path Cover, page 15 of 22 Next page on path