The post-pandemic effects on the Belt and Road Initiative depend on how long the pandemic will keep hampering the revival of global exchanges. Yet it is not clear when the movement of people can restart, let alone when it will reach the pre-COVID-19 level again. If current expectations of several COVID-19 waves until an available vaccination and sufficient immunisation of world population in 2022 prove to be true, then not only the world economy will be traumatized but also the minds of people. Wide-spread globalisation anxiety could not only hamper global flows but also put nationalist leaders with isolationist world views in power.
The positive globalisation narrative of the Silk Road could also become severely damaged, with the newly rediscovered pandemic threat which is a consequence of all deeper global integration processes. An unbundling of global supply chains will take place with a re-nationalisation or insourcing of crucial production sectors. Goods will still travel along the Belt and Road corridors, but further infrastructural and economic integration projects could decelerate.
Whereas current travel restrictions severely hamper personal people-to-people encounters, new digital communication tools arise and are adopted by society. They will trigger new developments under the Digital Silk Road framework. Taking the recent proposal of Huawei to Italy into account then also the Health Silk Road will have a strong digital component and will be more than just face masks.