Experts Discuss China’s New Silk Roads Initiative at Pardee Center Seminar

On March 21, a panel of experts spoke about the implications of China’s “one belt, one road” initiative for transnational investment, foreign diplomacy, and regional geopolitics at a seminar hosted by the Frederick S. Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future. The seminar, which was attended by about 50 people, was titled “The New Silk Roads: Will China’s Investments Enrich the World?” It was moderated by Prof. Min Ye of the Pardee School of Global Studies and featured Prof. Julie Klinger of the Pardee School, Prof. Khalid Saeed of the Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and Prof. Deborah Bräutigam of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS).

From left: Min Ye, Khalid Saeed, Julie Klinger, and Deborah Bräutigam

Prof. Min Ye kicked off the seminar with an overview of China’s New Silk Roads initiative. Her research focuses primarily on how the initiative will impact economic development and politics in the region. She gave an overview of the four key elements of the initiative: the Silk Road economic belt, the 21st century maritime Silk Road, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, and three proposed investment schemes or institutions (the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the Silk Road Fund, and the Maritime Silk Road Fund). She also provided a historical background on the policy making and implementation process of the New Silk Roads initiative, as well as an overview of public perception and investment trends.

Prof. Julie Klinger spoke about Chinese investment initiatives in Latin America. She explained that China’s banks provide more financing to Latin American and Caribbean governments than the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank combined, and that Chinese investments in the region — particularly in infrastructure and energy projects — have continued to rise despite the global economic slowdown. She emphasized that China’s involvement in the region is not unilaterally imposed, but rather is the result of a strong interest and desire among Latin American stakeholders to attract investment from China.

From left: Khalid Saeed, Julie Klinger, and Min Ye

Prof. Khalid Saeed took a system dynamics approach, focusing on the roles of political economy, markets, and firms. However, he acknowledged that an analysis based solely on traditional economics would fail to take into account the impact of political agendas. He concluded that China’s economic intervention into complex political economies may lead to unexpected results, but that a combination of interventions can be found that would create successful outcomes.

Prof. Deborah Bräutigam focused on China’s foreign direct investment in Africa. She cautioned that the size of investment flows from China to Africa are extremely difficult to estimate due to a lack of reliable data. Still, roughly 15 percent — about $3.4 billion — of Chinese investment in Africa is in manufacturing. Prof. Bräutigam’s research focuses on the scale of skill and technology transfer that is occurring as a result of this large-scale manufacturing investment by China in Africa.

The seminar was part of Prof. Min Ye’s work as a Pardee Center Faculty Research Fellow, which aims to establish a policy-relevant research program on the impacts of various aspects of China’s Silk Road Diplomacy in other developing countries in Asia and beyond.

This seminar was webcast live and a video will be available in the Pardee Center’s Multimedia Library soon.