China’s Belt and Road Initiative: The Impact on Partner States

Wednesday, May 24, 2023 - 10:00am - 12:30pm
Wilson Center
United States

China’s Belt and Road Initiative has been a double-edged sword for countries on the receiving end of Beijing's financial assistance. While the BRI remains an integral part of Beijing's foreign economic policy, it reflects China's broader goal for engaging with the Global South through economic development and garner support for its international security interests. In particular, the informal economic engagement stemming from BRI departs from China's established economic policy and yields unexpected consequences for host states. Join us for discussions on the impact of China's development promotion and foreign aid policies on partner states, and exporting China's modes of law and governance.


Opening Remarks - 10:00am

Panel 1: The Impact on Partner States: China’s Development-Promotion and Foreign Aid Policies (10:15am-11:15am)

What impacts do China’s development-promoting foreign economic policy and its foreign aid policies have in BRI partner states?  Nara Sritharan addresses the distinctive pattern of China’s aid in post-conflict Sri Lanka, and how it differs from the practices of multilateral aid donors.  She finds that domestic politicians have a greater impact in the allocation of bilateral aid from China. Matt Ferchen considers the relative importance of economic development and international security in Xi-era Chinese policy toward the Global South.  He finds that the BRI, its precursors, and subsequent initiatives reflect a “development first” policy and include informal economic engagement that departs from official policy and yields unexpected and under-recognized consequences for host states and challenges for U.S, policy.


  • Jacques deLisle, Chair of the Asia Program, Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI), Professor of Law and Political Science, University of Pennsylvania


Break (11:15am-11:30am)

Panel 2: Exporting China’s Modes of Law and Governance (11:30am-12:30pm)

Has the BRI promoted the export of China’s models of law and its practices of digital censorship in the Global South? Dr. Matthew Erie assesses China’s BRI-related promotion of “foreign-related ‘rule of law’” reform and “Chinese-style modernization” in developing countries.  He argues that China is seeking to promote its conception of law in domestic law in the Global South and in international law, with significant implications for China’s foreign relations around the world. Dr. Jonathan Solis analyzes China’s role as a digital censorship innovator and propagator, and the potential for BRI-related development assistance to increase China’s impact.  He focuses on  five autocratizing regimes: Azerbaijan, Nicaragua, Serbia, Turkey, and Uganda.


  • Shihoko Goto, Director for Geoeconomics and Indo-Pacific Enterprise, Wilson Center


International Relations