Symposium: Environmental Governance of China’s Belt and Road Initiative

On the 10th anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the editors of this Symposium bring together five articles that ask questions about the initiative from an environmental politics angle.


The symposium begins with an Introduction by editors Yixian Sun, Joanna I. Lewis & Johannes Urpelainen: ‘Environmental governance of China’s Belt and Road Initiative‘.

This introduction proposes a research agenda to focus on the effects of China-US geopolitical rivalry, institutional evolution, and agency of host countries to understand the evolving system governing environmental impacts of China’s overseas engagement.

Research Articles

1. ‘Explaining the energy mix in China’s electricity projects under the belt and road initiative‘ by Chuyu Liu, Thomas Hale & Johannes Urpelainen.

This article explains the energy mix of China’s overseas electricity investments across Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) recipient countries, focussing on Indonesia and Pakistan. 

2. ‘A dynamic institutional analysis of China’s engagement with Africa’s renewable energy market‘ by Frangton Chiyemura, Wei Shen, Meryl Burgess, Yacob Mulugetta & Yao Wang.

This article argues that promoting Chinese-backed renewable energy projects in Africa requires new institutional arrangements that can adapt to competitive and divergent local market conditions and regulatory changes.

3. ‘China’s Green Belt and Road Initiative: transnational environmental governance and causal pathways of orchestration‘ by Qingge Geng & Kevin Lo.

This article draws on first-hand evidence collected through participatory observation, interviews, and focus groups, to identify four key pathways of green orchestration: green consumerism, green infrastructure, green finance, and green governance.

4. ‘Hard to say goodbye: South Korea, Japan, and China as the last lenders for coal‘ by Michael R. Davidson, Xue Gao, Joshua Busby, Christine Shearer & Joshua Eisenman.

This article explores the dynamics of coal export finance and how the combination of international reputational pressures and declining demand for coal finance diminished the domestic support for incumbent coal exporters.

5. ‘The Role of International Engagement in Greening China’s Belt and Road Initiative‘ by Weila Gong & Joanna I. Lewis.

This article examines the understudied role of international engagement, and of specific international actors, in greening China’s BRI. It also identifies factors that have constrained the role of international influence, including the absence of an influential Chinese international development agency.

All of these articles are currently free access until the end of 2023.

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