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Demystifying Chinese overseas investment in infrastructure: Port development, the Belt and Road Initiative and regional development

Zhigao Liu, Seth Schindler and Weidong Liu

Journal of Transport Geography, 2020, vol. 87, issue C

Abstract: China's outward investment has increased tremendously in recent years and it is currently a global leader in the construction of transportation infrastructure. While its signature ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ (BRI) is often portrayed as a threat by policy makers and media in the West, this article approaches the BRI from the perspective of Beijing. We review Chinese infrastructure investment and show that rather than a monolithic strategy aimed at world domination, the BRI is driven by a range of Chinese stakeholders situated at different scales whose motives vary from achieving strategic geopolitical advantage to profit-maximization. We focus on port investments to demonstrate that the BRI accelerated an ongoing trend of increasing Chinese investment in overseas ports that began in the early 2000s. We subsequently present mini-case studies of port projects Gwadar, Pakistan and Kuantan, Malaysia, which illustrate that large Central Government state-owned enterprises (SOEs) pursue strategic objectives while SOEs situated at the province and city levels are motivated by economic incentives. All Chinese investors embrace the ‘port-park-city’ model pioneered by Shenzhen, and we highlight its potential to foster regional development. We conclude that future research on Chinese infrastructure projects should be relational, multi-scalar and multi-sited.

Keywords: Chinese overseas investment; Port development; The Belt and Road Initiative; State-owned enterprises; The ‘port-park-city’ model (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020
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DOI: 10.1016/j.jtrangeo.2020.102812

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