Chinese investment abroad has grown significantly in connection with the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). This paper tries to answer two questions: First, what considerations gave birth to the BRI? And second, what are the project's economic effects in terms of capital flows and international trade? It is found that the project is above all a way to deal with large surplus capacity in China's capital-intensive industries, to increase growth in relatively poor regions of the country, and to secure a supply of energy and raw materials. For other countries involved in the project, BRI investments are a means to increase production and international trade. International trade and foreign direct investment have been positively affected, although to a limited extent. Finally, there are concerns that lack of transparency in Chinese lending may lead to increased corruption, and that some countries will face financial difficulties.