Published: Oct. 17, 2022

poster of road in China

Over the past decade, China has seemingly exploded onto the international development scene. President Xi Jinping’s 2013 launch of the ‘Belt & Road Initiative’ heralded a newly assertive posture on China’s part, and since then there has been a lot of interest in what China is doing in places like Southeast Asia and Africa, what it means for a changing world political and economic order, and what it means for countries on the receiving end of China’s development projects and enhanced trade links. There has also been a lot of misunderstanding and misinformation regarding China’s increasingly prominent role on the global development stage.

Chinese funding by sector factsheet

Just when, for example, did China become a global development player? Was the Belt & Road really a departure from China’s previous foreign policies and practices? Does China mostly just build big infrastructures? Or is it involved in other kinds of development as well? How powerful is China in dictating the terms of its engagements with other countries? Is China creating a new alternative to the existing patterns of capitalist development? Or is it just the most recent power player within that existing system? Is there a distinct ‘China Model’ of global development?

The ChinaMade project, based at the Center for Asian Studies, has published two new factsheets aimed at answering these questions. The factsheets were developed in collaboration with the Roadwork Asia project, based at the University of Zurich, and the Environing Infrastructure project, based at the Rachel Carson Center in Munich. They were written by an international team of 22 scholars who have been researching China’s development projects in Central and Southeast Asia for years. Contributors include CAS Interim Faculty Director Tim Oakes, former CAS postdoc Alessandro Rippa, and CU Geography alumni Jessica DiCarlo and Galen Murton.

The factsheets help readers understand that there are multiple versions of China’s development model and that the Belt & Road Initiative is just one part of a much larger set of practices that have a much longer history than just the previous decade. The contributors point out that China’s practices remain embedded within mainstream global development patterns rather than creating new conditions outside of these patterns. They also show how local governments and other stakeholders play a significant role in shaping these projects, and that China’s ability to do what it wants in these places is very limited.

Check them out here: Demystifying the Belt & Road Initiative and China’s Global Development Model: Looking Beyond the Belt & Road Initiative