Sanne van der Lugt

Research Fellow

Sanne van der Lugt is an academic researcher with a focus on the consequences of China’s re-emergence as a global power for Europe. Her main research interests are Chinese economic activities in Africa, the digital silk road and China’s position in the fourth industrial revolution (including 5G, AI, DC/EP). While running a business in China (2006-2008) with the aim to study the Chinese business culture from within, Sanne wondered where the ‘Factory of the World’ was getting its resources from and what the implications were for peace and security on the African continent. Consequently, she shifted her focus towards China-Africa relations. In South Africa, she led and conducted fieldwork in many African countries and regions in China for her work at the Centre for Chinese Studies (2009-2011). Some of her research has been commissioned by Oxfam, WWF and the European Commission. Sanne’s PhD research (2014-2018) on Chinese and European telecom vendors in Nigeria gave her new insights in the important role of 5G in the global struggle for leadership of the fourth industrial revolution.

Academic disciplines

Anthropology; Culture, Organization and Management; International Political Economy and Conflict Dynamics (with a focus on sub-Saharan Africa); International Business


At the LeidenAsiaCentre Sanne studied China-Africa relations with a specific focus on the digital silk road and the position of China in the fourth industrial revolution. For her first project with LAC, she studied whether Chinese ICT technology has increased the control the Ethiopian government has over its citizens. It is often assumed that the Chinese government purposefully exports its surveillance technology to authoritarian regimes. However, her study shows that the Ethiopian government is not restricted to Chinese technology and also uses German and Italian surveillance technologies. The Ethiopian government appears to have much agency in its relation with Chinese actors, not least because of leveraging its relations with other foreign actors. In a second project, Sanne looks at the discourses around the digital silk road in Ethiopia.


As a trained anthropologist, Sanne has a preference for ethnographic research and interviews in order to get a better understanding of different perspectives on the topic under research. She usually supplements these sources with a document analysis. Sanne also makes use of statistical analyses in order to explore correlations and process tracing in order to test causal relations.


Hough, G. and Van der Lugt, S. (2021). Monetary Sovereignty: Why the EU Needs a Digital Euro.

Van der Lugt, S. (2021). Exploring the Political, Economic, and Social Implications of the Digital Silk Road into East Africa The Case of Ethiopia. In F. Schneider (ed.), Global Perspectives on China’s Belt and Road Initiative: Asserting Agency through Regional Connectivity (pp. 315-346). Amsterdam University Press.

Van der Lugt, S. (2020). Six persistent myths about China-Africa relations.

Van der Lugt, S. (2020). The impact of Covid-19 coronavirus on the BRI.

Van der Lugt, S. (2019). A ‘smart’ smart city plan.

Van der Lugt, S. (2019). EU-China investments: The 5G political power game.

Van der Lugt, S. (2016). Exploring African Host Countries’ Agency to Strengthen Local FDI

Regulations: The Case of Chinese Investments in the Infrastructure Sector of the DRC.


Research Fellow, LeidenAsiaCentre

Member, Chinese in Africa/Africans in China Research Network


Global Perspectives on the Belt and Road Initiative, China in global cyberspace

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