Chinese Adaptation to Conflict Risks in the Era of the Belt and Road Initiative

China‘s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has attracted signifi­cant attention due to its trans­formative influence on fields ranging from geo­politics to the political, economic and social environ­ment of member states. Most often, it has been described as a tool through which China can wield influence overseas in service of its own strategic aims. However, the ways in which challenges encoun­tered in these environ­ments act back on China itself are much less understood.

The project will study this issue through the lens of Chinese engage­ment in conflict-affected states like Pakistan and Myanmar, in which many BRI invest­ments are clustered. Chinese actors operating in such environ­ments are exposed to signi­ficant conflict risks, and are adapting by employing an increas­ingly diverse toolkit, ranging from security efforts to building goodwill among political elites and stake­holders. Managing these risks is also a challenge for Chinese institutions tasked with supervising overseas invest­ments and formulating top-level foreign and security policies. In these areas, the era of the BRI is likely to see adap­tation in the form of a more inter­ventionist turn.

Instead of assuming monolithic “Chinese” agency, the project investi­gates four distinct groups of actors – companies, state regulators, experts and policy­making institutions – and traces their perceptions of and responses to conflict risks encountered abroad. The project will assess if and how such adap­tation drives policy changes in fields ranging from Chinese develop­mental efforts to overseas military deploy­ments, providing important insights into the ways in which a rising China is grappling with its new global role.

The project is conducted in cooperation with the Shanghai Institutes of Inter­national Studies, Safer­world, and a number of individual external partners. It has been funded by the German Research Council (DFG) for a three-year period from 2023-2026.

Project director:
International Conference Dealing with Autocracies in a Fragmented World Conference Report | 2023

Abb, Pascal / Weipert-Fenner, Irene / Wolff, Jonas / Driedger, Jonas J. (2023): International Conference Dealing with Autocracies in a Fragmented World Conference Report, PRIF Conference Report, 11.12.2023.

Show details
China's New Global Security Initiative | 2023

Abb, Pascal (2023): China's New Global Security Initiative. A rising power spreads its wings, PRIF Spotlight 2/2023, Frankfurt/M, DOI: 10.48809/prifspot2302.

Download publication  // Show details


Shanghai Institutes for International Studies (SIIS)


Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)