The Belt and Road Initiative’s impact on conflict states

China's 'Belt and Road Initiative' (BRI) has attracted significant attention, based on expectations that it will have a transformative impact in fields ranging from economic integration to geopolitics. One aspect that has so far been mostly overlooked is the BRI's impact on conflict dynamics in fragile states throughout Africa and Asia. These countries have been able to attract significant amounts of Chinese infrastructure investments despite the high levels of conflict risks. This may turn out to be a boon for reconstruction and development efforts and promote sustainable peace, but also carries the danger of exacerbating conflicts through an uneven distribution of costs and benefits, increased corruption or geopolitical tensions.

This project studies the BRI’s impact on a range of fragile and conflict-affected states, with an initial focus on the cases of Pakistan, Myanmar, Kyrgyzstan and Uganda. It seeks to establish how local attitudes towards BRI projects fall along existing conflict lines, and how its projects have reshaped these conflict dynamics. It examines what strategies Chinese companies and other actors are employing to secure their investments, if and how they mitigate local conflicts, and how they understand their own agency within these settings. Finally, it aims to provide practice-oriented suggestions for how BRI-related economic investments can be made more conflict sensitive, and how Chinese, local and international actors can better coordinate their actions to reduce conflict risks.

The project is jointly undertaken with Saferworld and also includes cooperation partners from China and the affected countries themselves. It aims to build an international network for regular academic exchanges, civil society participation and practitioner outreach, with an initial kick-off event in March 2021.

Project director:
China in transitionary Myanmar. Challenging paths to democratization and peace | 2021

Abb, Pascal/Adhikari, Monalisa (2021): China in transitionary Myanmar. Challenging paths to democratization and peace, PRIF Spotlight 5/2021, Frankfurt/M.

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Road to Peace or Bone of Contention? | 2021

Abb, Pascal/Swaine, Robert/Jones, Ilya (2021): Road to Peace or Bone of Contention? The Impact of the Belt and Road Initiative on Conflict States, PRIF Report 1/2021, Frankfurt/M.

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Shanghai Institutes for International Studies