Chinese Adaptation to Conflict Risks in the Era of the Belt and Road Initiative
China‘s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has attracted significant attention due to its transformative influence on fields ranging from geopolitics to the political, economic and social environment of member states. Most often, it has been described as a tool through which China can wield influence overseas in service of its own strategic aims. However, the ways in which challenges encountered in these environments act back on China itself are much less understood.
The project will study this issue through the lens of Chinese engagement in conflict-affected states like Pakistan and Myanmar, in which many BRI investments are clustered. Chinese actors operating in such environments are exposed to significant conflict risks, and are adapting by employing an increasingly diverse toolkit, ranging from security efforts to building goodwill among political elites and stakeholders. Managing these risks is also a challenge for Chinese institutions tasked with supervising overseas investments and formulating top-level foreign and security policies. In these areas, the era of the BRI is likely to see adaptation in the form of a more interventionist turn.
Instead of assuming monolithic “Chinese” agency, the project investigates four distinct groups of actors – companies, state regulators, experts and policymaking institutions – and traces their perceptions of and responses to conflict risks encountered abroad. The project will assess if and how such adaptation drives policy changes in fields ranging from Chinese developmental efforts to overseas military deployments, providing important insights into the ways in which a rising China is grappling with its new global role.
The project is conducted in cooperation with the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, Saferworld, and a number of individual external partners. It has been funded by the German Research Council (DFG) for a three-year period from 2023-2026.