Economy in Command: Unpacking the Domestic Politics of China’s Belt and Road Initiative

Singapore. Photo by Isabel Lee via Unsplash.

Since the Chinese government announced the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in 2013, China has solidified its status as a leader in the international community. Through its financing of development projects, mostly through South-South cooperation, BRI has attracted considerable scrutiny. This attention comes from both developed and developing countries and focuses on how the Chinese strategy will challenge US leadership as well as how China’s outbound investment will affect industrialization and stability in the receiving regions. However, few have studied the domestic politics of the new strategy.

A working paper by Min Ye fills this gap in research by examining three domestic factors of BRI: origins, governance and early implementation. The author conducted in-depth interviews with key officials, representatives and leading scholars. The article also compiles a list of archives of Chinese print and online published materials. 

The author finds that despite foreign concerns regarding the rise of China’s external power, the Chinese state is primarily focused on economic growth as opposed to consolidating international clout. While observers worry about a strengthening of autocratic power in Beijing as a result of BRI, the Chinese economy remains largely in command of BRI, as it is driven by market-oriented, commercial actors. Ultimately, BRI has expedited investment inside of China and is likely to bring about further economic change in Chinese markets going forward.

Read the Working Paper