Beijing's ambitious development strategy, the "Belt and Road" initiative, which involves land and sea connections from China to Europe linking dozens of countries on three continents, is enthralling in its scope and bewilders the imagination.

While presented in 2013 as a project that will stimulate economies and enhance trade, it will also significantly heighten China's own geopolitical status. As Henry Kissinger has said, the initiative "is a quest to shift the world's center of gravity."

China recently announced that since 2013 it has invested more than $60 billion in countries along the Belt and Road. In 2017, direct investment reached $14.36 billion, or 12 percent of China's total outbound investment. More than 100 countries and international organizations have signed agreements of cooperation with China on developing the initiative.