Conference: Asia and Africa in Transition

NEW DATES: 28-30 June 2021

Panel: The making of Belt and Road Initiative projects in African states: Local actors, interests and policy link-ups

Convener: Julie Yu-Wen Chen, Professor of Chinese Studies, Department of Cultures, University of Helsinki

Chinese government defines the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in functional terms, supporting any international project that has the potential to become part of the BRI. There is no concrete definition of what kind of cooperative engagement there should be. This opens the door to many possibilities, encouraging interested stakeholders in many parts of the world to justify how their projects can be part of the BRI and thus obtain Chinese investments or loans. This panel, however, problematizes the concept that the Chinese state is the most important, if not the only, variable in explaining the success of BRI projects. What is badly needed is a bottom-up approach that examines the motives, actions and resources of potential stakeholders in various BRI targeted states. This panel calls upon scholars to share their studies of consternation of domestic institutions, policy and/or business networks, and the efforts of political and business entrepreneurs in African states to link up their policy priorities with the BRI. How do local African actors, be it governmental or private, match their own interest and policies with the BRI? Is the matching of interest remain at the cooperation of building up transportation infrastructure or has cooperation in other fields such as agriculture being planned? What are the working-level dialogues between stakeholders in African countries and Chinese government representatives? Some observers have noted that the African Union has taken the lead in finding synergies between its Agenda 2063 and the BRI, in the belief that this African-bred, 50-year development plan matches well with the BRI’s ambition to provide sustainable prosperity and peace on the continent. How has this match of interest been framed, elaborated and materialized in practice? This panel seeks empirical studies to help us evaluate the success or failure of China’s BRI in Africa.