China, Ethiopia and the Significance of the Belt and Road Initiative/ Barry Sautman - Hong Kong University of Science & Technology, Yan Hairong - Hong Kong Polytechnic University

Seminars & Lectures
MISR Seminar Room 1
Event end Date
Event Date
May 29, 2019
Event Time
02:15 PM to 05:15 PM Africa/Kampala

China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a mobilization that mainly focuses on infrastructure building and investment in developing countries. A global BRI discourse has recently emerged, with Chinese and US poles. The Chinese government and media portray it as wholly positive and mutually beneficial and many BRI participant states affirm that position. The US government, some of its allies and much of US media characterize the BRI wholly negatively and in terms of a single issue: it is all about debt traps that result in the loss of developing country sovereignty.

   Much of the BRI discourse is about Africa.  Ethiopia is the continent’s model BRI country, because of elaborate Chinese infrastructure building and manufacturing.  Based on documentary research and fieldwork, we seek the meaning of the BRI through the Ethiopian case. We examine major Chinese construction and production projects that may relate to building the predicates of industrialization and enhancing import substitution and exports.  We also discuss local criticisms of Chinese activities that challenge the wholly positive view of the BRI, but that generally do not affirm the US-generated negative narrative.  We find that the main significance of the BRI is that it is a Chinese state guarantee that even when the capital flow from China to non-BRI states is being curbed, as it is now, the flow to BRI states will still be encouraged and Chinese infrastructure building and investment will largely comport with demands of host country elites.