Under the background of the in-depth adjustment of the world economic structure, China’s President Xi Jinping proposed the “Belt and Road” initiative （BRI for short）. OFDI is one of the key areas of the BRI. Existing literature has conducted extensive research on the topic of OFDI under the BRI. We review the literature published in leading academic journals on the subject of China’s OFDI under the BRI, and propose future research agenda, aiming at providing insights into expanding the OFDI theories of developing countries and promoting the high-quality development of the BRI.
Through coding, we summarize existing literature in terms of determinants and economic outcomes. As for determinants, based on the eclectic theory, and combined with the development of institution theory, liability of foreignness theory, OFDI theory for developing countries and the spatial autocorrelation of OFDI, we summarize existing literature from five perspectives including OLI paradigm, institution, national distance, relationship and the third country. As for economic outcomes, existing literature mainly focuses on the impact of OFDI under the BRI on home countries, host countries and firms. It finds that OFDI under the BRI can significantly promote the economic development of home and host countries, enhance bilateral trade complementarities, and promote firm upgrading.
Existing literature conducts research from multiple perspectives, and gains rich achievements on the research of OFDI under the BRI. However, it mainly analyzes related questions under the traditional OFDI theoretical framework with samples from countries along the BRI, and seldom puts forward new questions according to the unique context and practice of OFDI under the BRI. Meanwhile, existing literature focuses more on testing related theories at the macro level, and conducts little research based on micro-level investment entities.
Based on the above analysis, we further put forward a future research framework. First, future research should pay close attention to situational characteristics of the BRI. In particular, more attention should be given to new investment risks under the BRI brought by global events such as trade frictions and the epidemic of COVID-19, as well as risk control during the process of OFDI. Second, future research should focus more on the role of “five cooperation priorities” （policy coordination, facilities connectivity, unimpeded trade, financial integration, and people-to-people bond） in promoting OFDI and reducing investment risks. Third, different from traditional economic and trade cooperation, OFDI under the BRI has more intergovernmental cooperation and policy support. Therefore, future research should also expand the discussion on the economic outcomes of OFDI under the BRI from various levels to understand and evaluate the construction effectiveness of the BRI more comprehensively.
This paper has the following contributions: On the one hand, OFDI under the BRI is a hot topic in the current academic research, but the theoretical depth and breadth need to be further expanded. We comprehensively summarize existing high-level research related to China’s OFDI under the BRI, laying a literature foundation to future research. On the other hand, we establish a future research framework which takes the “five cooperation priorities” as the starting point and firms as the major research object. The framework could provide a theoretical basis for promoting the high-quality development of the BRI.