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AsiaAsia CommentTaipan

A themed tour of the world

Spare a thought for investment bankers working in Hong Kong and Singapore. Although they focus on deals from across the region, there is no escaping the importance of China.

That does allow for some wonderful experiences: getting to know interesting people, learning about the country’s rich history and tasting some of the greatest food in the world. However, it also means having to pretend to be passionately interested, rather than mildly bored, every time someone brings up the Belt and Road Initiative.

China’s landmark scheme to build up the world’s infrastructure and/or become a geopolitical pay-day lender (depending on your perspective) is certainly a talking point, but most bankers privately admit they’re now tired of talking about it.

Who can blame them? Few bankers are clear what defines a ‘Belt and Road transaction’, but most have had pressure from above to master the subject.

Perhaps with that in mind, one friend, a banker at a big US firm, is leaving his job to explore the countries along the ‘belt’ (the ‘road’ is actually the sea). He remains convinced that China will change the world with its initiative. In a bid to understand it better, he is going to spend the next year or so following Chinese lenders and infrastructure companies as they spread across Asia and Europe.

It is not the strangest way to plan a world tour but my friend should be careful. It is one thing to set off on a mission to understand the Belt and Road Initiative, but when he gets back everyone else will want him to explain it to them.