Purpose – This paper aims to explore the spatio-temporal patterns of Chinese foreign direct investment (FDI) since the inception of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in 2013 as an extended version of geographically weighted regression. Design/methodology/approach – The panel data are used to examine spatial and temporal dynamics of the magnitude and the direction of China's outward FDI stock and its flow from 2011 to 2015 at a country level. Using the geographically and temporally weighted regression (GTWR), spatio-temporal distribution of FDI is explained through Logistic Performance Index, the size of gross domestic product (GDP), Shipping Linear Connectivity Index and Container Port Throughput. Findings – A comparative analysis between participating and non-participating countries in the BRI shows that the size of GDP and Container Port Throughput of the participating countries have a positive effect on the increases of China's outward FDI Stock to Asia especially after 2013, while non-participating countries, such as North America, Western Europe and Western Africa, have no significant effect on it before and after the implementation of the BRI. Research limitations/implications – The findings, however, will not necessarily provide insight into the needs of China's outward FDI in certain countries to develop their economy. The findings provide the evidence to inform policy making to help identify the winners and losers of the investment, scale and direction of investment and the key drivers that shape the distributive investment patterns globally. Practical implications – The study provides the empirical evidence to inform investment policy and strategic realignment by quantifying scale, direction and drivers that shape the spatio-temporal shifts of China's FDI. Social implications – The analysis also guides the Chinese government improve bilateral trade, build infrastructure and business partnerships with preferential countries participating in the BRI. Originality/value – There is an urgent need to adopt a new perspective to unfold the spatial temporal complexity of FDI that incorporates space and time dependencies, and the drivers of the situated context to model their effects on FDI. The model is based on GTWR and an extended geographically weighted regression (GWR) allowing the simultaneous analysis of spatial and temporal decencies of exploratory variables.