Global Perspectives on the Belt and Road Initiative

This year, the LeidenAsiaCentre started a new research project investigating global perspectives on the Belt and Road Initiative. One of the outcomes of an earlier research report (2018), which discussed China’s political influence in Europe through investments in technology and infrastructure, was the realisation that investigating the political implications of Chinese investments is not only relevant in Europe, but all over the world. It is therefore a logical step to extend the scope of research to other regions as well.

Despite the growing global interest in the political impact of international Chinese economic investment and loans, which are often related to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), research addressing this topic from a cross-regional comparative perspective is lacking. This underlines the potential significance of a comprehensive effort to investigate regional experiences through a jointly devised framework that accounts for variegation while enabling meaningful comparison.

Considering that the LeidenAsiaCentre has adopted “Intercontinental Connectivities” as one of its three research themes, a comparative research project focusing on the impact of China’s growing connectivity with economies across the continents through the BRI fits well with the LeidenAsiaCentre’s research agenda.

Aim and methodology
The goal of this project is to provide insights and lessons to policymakers and academics from around the world regarding the mechanisms and consequences of Chinese investments and loans. In order to do so, the project aims to address three central issues, while emphasising the diversity, perspectives and agency of actors on the receiving end of Chinese investments and loans:

1. The diversity of Chinese political and economic strategies behind investments and loans in different regions within the context of the BRI;

2. The political implications of China’s BRI-related economic and financial activities in the respective regions;

3. The different responses of relevant actors, including the domestic political discourses, in the various countries/regions regarding Chinese BRI-related investments and loans.

The LeidenAsiaCentre brings together researchers who have investigated the strategies behind, impact of, and responses to Chinese investments and loans in different regions or from different thematic perspectives. By supporting further fieldwork-based regional and thematic studies as well as facilitating meetings, their knowledge will be combined into a final seminar and report that is to published publicly.

Presentation and publication

The research project will result in an online presentation on June 23, 2020. Later that year, an edited volume will be published by Amsterdam University Press. This publication will consist of the following chapters and authors:

Introduction
Florian Schneider (LeidenAsiaCentre, Leiden University)

Geographic Agency: The Case of Iran as a ‘Civilizational Crossroads’ in the ‘Silk Roads’
Mamad Forough (Leiden University)

China’s BRI and International Cooperation in Higher Education and Research: A Mutually Symbiotic Relationship
Ingrid d’Hooghe (LeidenAsiaCentre, Clingendael Institute)

Geopolitics and the BRI: The Case of Indonesia
Frans-Paul van der Putten (Clingendael Institute)

Over hills and valleys too: China’s Belt and Road Initiative in the Caribbean
Ruben Gonzalez Vicente (Leiden University)

Trade, Tax, and Development Finance: Understanding China’s Choice of BRI Agreements and Institutions
Irma Johanna Mosquera Valderrama, Wang Jue, Michael Sampson (Universiteit Leiden)

The Two Faces of the China Model: The BRI in Southeast Asia
Matt Ferchen (MERICS)

The BRI in Latin America: New Wine in Old Bottle?
Matt Ferchen (MERICS)

Elite Legitimation and the Agency of Host Country: Explaining Patterns of BRI Engagement in Southeast Asia
Cheng-Chwee Kuik (National University of Malaysia)

Ascertaining Agency: The BRI in Africa
Stacey Links (Leiden University)

Southern African Development Cooperation and BRI
Stacey Links (Leiden University)

Exploring the political, economic and social implications of the digital silk road into East Africa: the case of Ethiopia
Sanne van der Lugt (LeidenAsiaCentre, Clingendael Institute)

The Belt and Road Initiative in South Asia: Regional Impact, and the Evolution of Perceptions and Policy Responses
Richard Ghiasy (Leiden University)

Conclusion
Florian Schneider (LeidenAsiaCentre, Leiden University)

Assistant
Jonas Lammertink

Partners
The institutional partners for this project are the Clingendael Institute for International Relations, the EU-Centre in Singapore and the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA) in Jakarta.

Duration
June 2019 – November 2020

Interviews with the researchers

Video presentation of the project