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Identifying export opportunities for China in the ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ group of countries: a decision support model approach

Martin Cameron (TRADE Research Entity and Trade Advisory, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa)
Ludo Juul Cuyvers (Department of Management, Faculty of Applied Economics, University of Antwerp, Antwerp, Belgium and TRADE Research Entity, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa)
Dahai Fu (School of International Trade and Economics, Central University of Finance and Economics, Beijing, China)
Wilma Viviers (TRADE Research Entity, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa)

Journal of International Trade Law and Policy

ISSN: 1477-0024

Article publication date: 3 June 2021

Issue publication date: 22 June 2021




This paper aims to identify China’s realistic export opportunities (REOs) among the “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI) group of countries.


The methodology used is a decision support model (DSM) that filters data based on country risk; macro-economic country performance; market potential in terms of import growth and import market size; and market access conditions. The high-potential REOs are revealed.


Out of the 84 BRI countries, 79 countries represent 42.5% of China’s REOs globally and 26.9% of China’s globally untapped potential value. Interestingly, 17.9% of this untapped potential is in the BRI countries Poland, Austria and the Czech Republic, thus providing a potentially important route into the European Union.

Research limitations/implications

If China wants to develop additional or new markets, focus should be put on the BRI markets outside of the top 20. China should also invest in the development of most BRI economies, to ensure their future growth and increased demand for import of products and services from China.

Practical implications

The shortlist of China’s REOs in the individual BRI countries makes for more efficient planning and prioritising of export development activities. It also highlights the need for policymakers to look beyond international trade and focus on how to also improve the domestic economies of the BRI partners.


To the best of authors’ knowledge, this paper is the first to use the DSM to identify China’s REOs at HS6-digit level within the BRI group. The findings have important implications for China’s export promotion agencies, industry associations and individual companies.



The authors are grateful for the comments and suggestions received from the participants of the 93rd WEAI Annual Conference, the 2018 China–Brazil Economic and Development International Conference and the Sixth Annual Conference of the Association of Sino-Russian Economic Universities. This work was supported by the Humanity and Social Science Foundation of Ministry of Education of China (No. 20YJC790024) and the National Research Foundation of South Africa (No. 115360). Any opinion, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the authors.


Cameron, M., Cuyvers, L.J., Fu, D. and Viviers, W. (2021), "Identifying export opportunities for China in the ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ group of countries: a decision support model approach", Journal of International Trade Law and Policy, Vol. 20 No. 2, pp. 101-126.



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