Energy Programme Asia (EPA): The Political Economy of the Belt & Road Initiative and its Reflections
A new Joint Research Programme between the Energy Programme Asia at IIAS (EPA-IIAS) and the Institute of World Politics and Economy of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (IWEP-CASS) in Beijing, China.
This joint research programme analyses the origin, processes, and impact of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), focusing on the international and transnational activities of and responses to Chinese corporations in selected countries in Asia, Africa, and the European Union. We also examine the emergence, policies, and geopolitical impact of the related multilateral institutions set up by China, the regional and global reception of such multilateral institutions, their relationship to the activities and policies of Chinese corporations, and how these institutions could alter the existing regional and global order.
The main objective of the research programme is to analyse China’s increasing involvement with governments, local institutions, and local stakeholders in the energy and non-energy sectors in a selection of cases in Asia, Africa, and the European Union within the context of the Belt and Road Initiative, and the response in these countries to Chinese involvement. The countries selected for case studies include: Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Hungary, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, and the Western Balkan states.
The second objective is to examine the emergence, policies, and geopolitical impact of the multilateral institutions set up by China, namely the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. We are interested in studying the regional and global impact and reception of such multilateral institutions, their relationship to the activities and policies of Chinese companies, and how these institutions could alter frameworks of global governance and the existing regional and global order.
We aim to examine the activities and the local and geopolitical economic responses of Chinese companies and multilateral institutions based on a three-level framework:
The first level examines patterns of interaction and the mechanisms of Chinese corporations and their involvement with national industries, their relationship to foreign investment projects, and the extent to which they are embedded in the local economy of the selected receiving countries.
The second, and domestic level examines the problems that may arise in the receiving countries as a result of Chinese involvement (i.e., from trade, investment, and finance). The aim is to examine, among others, domestic socio-economic, urban, and environmental challenges. At the national level, these may result from loans and export credit strategies that affect the political constellation in the receiving country, but the problems may also refer to urban development, social stratification, employment, ethnic tensions, the search for the cultural and national roots in the receiving country, the direct relationship between members of the receiving society and foreign (Chinese) workers and specialists, and specific cooperation projects between China and Europe and their related risks and challenges.
The third, and global level has two interconnected focusses. The first examines the cooperation between Chinese National Oil Companies (NOCs) and International Oil Companies (IOCs), such as Shell and British Petroleum, through the construction of regional and transcontinental infrastructure projects, such as railways, highways, pipelines, and as stakeholders and owners of domestic energy industry. The second focus aims to examine the emergence, policies and geopolitical impact of multilateral institutions set up by China. These include (i) the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and (ii) the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). The interest here lies at their regional and global impact and the reception of such multilateral institutions, their relationship to the activities and policies of Chinese companies, and how these institutions could alter the existing regional and global order.
Following the main objectives of this joint research programme, the central question is: How do Chinese energy and non-energy companies entering into relations with national and local institutions, stakeholders and societies, within the Belt and Road Initiative, affect those institutions, stakeholders and societies, and how do Chinese companies and institutions respond to the demands, challenges and problems raised by the receiving countries and their population? Answering this central question is broken down into three lines of investigation with associated sub-questions.
1) Descriptive and classificatory. Which patterns of involvement by Chinese companies in local institutions in receiving countries can be distinguished? How have they evolved over time as trade, investment, and finance relations have intensified? To what extent are these companies embedded in and supported by a larger Chinese political and economic framework that differs from the existing Western ones? What are the local responses to Chinese involvement? How is local society affected by Chinese investments?
2) Descriptive and analytical. What have been the main actors in Chinese trade, investment, and finance, both in China and overseas? What have been the driving forces in their decision-making processes? How responsive have they been to (changes in) local political conditions and international markets? What are the mechanisms of interaction and problem-solving?
3) Analytical and conclusive. What differences in company behaviour do the governments, media, businesses and communities in resource-rich countries perceive between Chinese and Western (European and/or American) companies? What factors, both internal and external to Chinese companies, are responsible for such differences, insofar as these perceived differences have a factual basis? What has been the influence of international standards of Corporate Social Responsibility?
Program Leaders & Core Research Team
This interdisciplinary research programme is co-managed by Mehdi Amineh (University of Amsterdam and Program Director of EPA-IIAS) and Zhang Yuyan (General Director of the Institute of World Economy and Politics of the Chinese Academy of the Social Sciences (IWEP-CASS).
Over seventy internationally-renowned scholars from Asia, Europe, and North America are being brought together for this programme, organised around a core research team of twenty-one Dutch and Chinese scholars and nine institutional partners.
The programme brings together the fields of political science, political economy, area studies, energy studies, economics, and international relations. As a team, these experts cover all aspects of the study.
The core of the Dutch research team consists of:
Mehdi Amineh (IIAS and University of Amsterdam)
Laszlo Maracz (University of Amsterdam)
Jeroen van Wijk (Maastricht School of Management)
Wina Crijns-Graus (Utrecht University)
Hooman Peimani (EPA-IIAS)
Rafael Almeida Ferreira Abrão (Federal University of ABC and EPA-IIAS)
Gul-i-Hina Shahzad (University of Milan and IIAS)
The core of the Chinese research team consists of scholars from IWEP-CASS, namely:
ZHANG Yuyan (IWEP-CASS)
WANG Yongzhong (IWEP-CASS)
XU Xiujun (IWEP-CASS)
REN Lin (IWEP-CASS)
TIAN Xu (IWEP-CASS)
SONG Jin (IWEP-CASS)
FENG Weijiang (IWEP-CASS)
TIAN Huifang (IWEP-CASS)
WEI Wei (IWEP-CASS)
WAN Jun (IWEP-CASS)
ZHOU Yimin (IWEP-CASS)
LIN Shen (IWEP-CASS)
HH Sheikh Nasser al-Mohammed al-Sabah Programme
Nasser al-Sabah Chair and Director: Professor Anoush Ehteshami
School of Government and International Affairs
Durham University, al-Qasimi Building, Elvet Hill Road, Durham DH1 3TU, UK
Aims of the Research and Working Plan
Research and discussion between Dutch and Chinese scholars of the social sciences will produce new insights for analysing processes of increasing interaction between governments, energy and non-energy companies, and other stakeholders in Asia, Africa, and the European Union. The findings will be of use to policymakers in China and the selected countries in our research. By strengthening links between research institutions in China and the Netherlands, this research will also contribute to scientific capacity-building. Despite increasing global interconnectedness, epistemic networks are still rare and underutilised.
The research programme consists of three parts: (i) exchange of scholars between the Netherlands and China, (ii) organising an international workshop, conference, and lecture series, and (iii) the publication of the individual research projects in both a book volume and a special edition of a peer-reviewed journal.
9 March 2022
During this fourth research-oriented meeting, 14 researchers from China and Europe will convene to present and discuss their individual research projects in the context of the joint research programme. The aim is to publish the presented papers in a special issue of a peer-reviewed journal and later as a book in 2023.
27 August 2021
An international research-oriented meeting took place within the context of the 12th International Convention of Asia Scholars. This meeting was hosted by Kyoto University and held online. The meeting was organised by Mehdi Amineh and consisted of the following four panels and participants:
- The first panel was titled Critical Evaluation of the Belt and Road Initiative I: BRI from Within (Industry Upgrading and High-Quality Development) and chaired by Prof Mehdi Amineh (EPA-IIAS and University of Amsterdam). Participants in this first panel were Prof Song Jin (IWEP), Prof Tian Xu (IWEP), and Prof Xu Xiujun (IWEP).
- The second panel’s title was Critical Evaluation of the Belt and Road Initiative II: The Belt and Road Initiative and Hydrocarbon Security and chaired by Prof Wang Yongzhong (IWEP). Participants of this panel were Prof Yimin Zhou (IWEP), Dr Hooman Peimani (IIAS), Prof Wei Wei (IWEP), and Prof Wang Yongzhong (IWEP).
- The third panel’s title was Critical Evaluation of the Belt and Road Initiative III: Sustainability Under the Belt and Road Initiative and chaired by Prof Mehdi Amineh (EPA-IIAS). The participants of this third panel were Prof Huifang Tian (IWEP), Prof Shen Lin (IWEP), Prof Jun Wan (IWEP), Prof Wina Crijns-Grauss (Utrecht University).
- The fourth and last panel’s title was Critical Evaluation of the Belt and Road Initiative IV: BRI in the World. The participants of this panel were Prof Laszlo Maracz (University of Amsterdam), Mr Rafael Abrao (IIAS) and Mr Emre Demirkiran (IIAS).
A closed research-oriented meeting was organised via Zoom to present and discuss the drafts of the research papers. The participants consisted of the research team members from the Netherlands, Canada and Brazil: Mehdi Amineh (IIAS and University of Amsterdam), Willem Vogelsang (IIAS), Laszlo Maracz (University of Amsterdam), Jeroen van Wijk (Maastricht School of Management), Wina Crijns-Graus (Utrecht University), Hooman Peimani (IIAS), and Rafael Abrao (IIAS and Federal University of ABC), as well as two research assistants of the Energy Programme Asia (Laura Linck and Emre Demirkiran).
The final drafts of the research papers will be presented during an international conference taking place at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, China in January 2020.
13 November 2019
This workshop, in Leiden, the Netherlands, presents and discusses the progress of the research papers in the context of the research programme.
19 July 2019
The second research-oriented meeting took place within the context of the 11th International Convention of Asia Scholars in Leiden. It was organised on Friday 19 July 2019 by Mehdi Amineh and Willem Vogelsang, and was called Geopolitical Economy of the Belt and Road Initiative and its Reflections. A team of twelve researchers presented papers based on two themes: the impact of the BRI in selected countries and the impact of the BRI and China’s multilateral institutions on global governance.
In this meeting, the following members of the research team participated: Mehdi Amineh (University of Amsterdam), Willem Vogelsang (International Institute for Asian Studies), Xu Xiujun (IWEP-CASS), Tian Xu (IWEP-CASS), Wang Yongzhong (IWEP-CASS), Feng Weijiang (IWEP-CASS), Song Jin (IWEP-CASS), Jeroen van Wijk (Fitis), Laszlo Maracz (University of Amsterdam), Allard Wagemaker (Netherlands Defence Academy), Melanie van Driel (Utrecht University), Sarah Poss (International Institute for Asian Studies), and Mohammadbagher Forough (Leiden University).
24 November 2017
The first research-oriented meeting was held on the 24th of November 2017. It took place at the Institute of World Economics and Politics of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, China.
New Book Series: The Routledge Series on the Belt and Road Initiative. Editor-in-Chief Mehdi P. Amineh
Routledge has commissioned the creation of a peer-reviewed book series titled The Routledge Series on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The series covers the institutional aspects of the BRI, its impact on International Relations, Global Political Economy and on Global Governance. I am invited as Editor-in-Chief of the series.
Launched in 2013 by China’s government, the BRI is China’s largest global endeavour to adapt the ‘world order’ to its new role as an emergent global power, as global trader, respectively capital and technology provider and potential ‘alliance’ partner.
Through six corridors, the BRI seeks to integrate Eurasia and beyond with transport links to Africa, Oceania and the Americas. Its expanding scope includes areas as trade, investment and finance; industry; infrastructure and construction; energy; and people-to-people, cultural and academic exchanges. According to China’s officials 125 countries of which 18 countries of the EU have signed BRI.
Amineh, M.P. (ed.) (2023). The China-led Belt and Road Initiative and Its Reflections: The Crisis of Hegemony and Changing Global Orders. London & New York: Routledge. ISBN: 978-1-032-18835-5 (hbk); ISBN: 978-1-032-18838-6 (pbk); ISBN: 978-1-003-25650-2 (ebk). DOI: 10.4324/9781003256502.
This book analyzes the origins and the impacts of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) on diplomacy, economy (trade, investment, finance), and security among selected host countries and regions in Asia, Africa, and the European Union.
By examining the geopolitical economy of BRI activities, it concisely describes the impact of the rise of China and its BRI policy strategy on the reshaping of world order and global governance. This volume explores the BRI by addressing several key questions including:
• Why did the Chinese leadership set up the BRI?
• What are the activities of BRI projects in the participating countries and related regions?
• What are the challenges to the successful implementation of the BRI in the various countries and regions?
Moreover, through its analysis of the abovementioned questions, it provides novel contributions to the ongoing scholarly debates between Chinese and non-Chinese scholars – among others, the debate surrounding the “rise of China” and its impact on global governance.
Featuring an extensive variety of expert contributors, this study will be an essential reading for students and scholars of International Relations and Global Political Economy as well as Chinese politics and those with an interest in the Belt and Road Initiative more broadly.
Mehdi Parvizi Amineh (2022): WHY DID CHINA’S RISE SUCCEED AND IRAN’S FAIL? THE POLITICAL ECONOMY OF DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA AND IRAN*, Asian Affairs, DOI: 10.1080/03068374.2022.2029038
There are many shared historical experiences and similarities between Iran and China. Both are legacies of the long-lasting empires and civilisations in West and East Asia, respectively. Like other great Asian empires, Iran and China were confronted with the expansion of the European imperial powers in the early-nineteenth century which ultimately led to the dislocation of these ancient empires. Both countries had resisted pressures towards peripheralization in the global economy by the creation of nationalist popular revolutions and by building modern nation states and identities in the first half of the twentieth century, despite different political systems, cultures, and external relations. Both Iran and China have been trying to escape from the external pressures and internal socio-economic backwardness by the modernization of their states, societies, and economies via a state-led catch-up development strategy. These efforts led to the rise of China in the late-20th century and the emergence of post-Islamic revolutionary Iran 1978/79 as a ‘contender state' to the hegemony of the United States (US) in West Asia. This development raises two key questions: why did China succeed in rising as an industrialised regional and global power, and has Iran’s development strategy failed so far?
I argue that the main reason for post-revolutionary Iran failure to become the regional hegemon comes from two interconnected issues: (i) the failure of its economic development strategy, which was mainly caused by (ii) the ‘offensive' external involvement in its own region before a successful catch-up process. Iran's catch-up development strategy, which is the main material basis for the country's rise, was hampered after the revolution by its ‘offensive, revolutionary and military oriented foreign policy'. This strategy blocked Iran from access to capital, information and technology concentrated in the core area of the global economy dominated by the US. Unlike Iran, China's successful catch-up industrialisation was driven, in part, through rapprochement and consensus between Chinese leaders and the US and its allies in 1970s. This strategy led China to distance itself from Mao's revolutionary offensive foreign relations and replace it with ‘defensive’ and peaceful foreign relations in the era of its catch-up industrialisation (1980-2000s).
The EPA-research programme of IIAS was launched in 2002. Between 2007 and 2017, IIAS-EPA and the Institute of West Asian and African Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (IWAAS-CASS) co-managed two joint research programmes, which involved the cooperation of various research institutes of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and universities in the Netherlands.
- Domestic and Geopolitical Challenges to Energy Security of China and the European Union (2007 – 2011).
- The Transnationalisation of China’s Oil Industry: Company strategies, embedded projects and relations with institutions and stakeholders in resource-rich countries (2013 - 2017).
From 2007 – 2011 EPA and the Institute of West Asian and African Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (IWAAS-CASS) co-managed their first joint research project Domestic and Geopolitical Challenges to Energy Security of China and the European Union, in collaboration with four research institutes of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and four universities in the Netherlands.
The objectives of this comparative research project were to analyze (a) the geopolitical and (b) domestic aspects of energy security challenges for the European Union (EU) and China and their impact on energy security policy strategies. The analysis of geopolitical aspects involved research on the effects of competition for access to oil and gas resources among the main global consumer countries and its implications for the security of energy supplies of the EU and China. The domestic aspects involved analyses of domestic energy demand and supply, policies to increase energy efficiency, and estimating the prospects for the exploitation of renewable energy resources.
The results of this successful joint project have been published in two book volumes:
M. P. Amineh & Yang Guang , The Globalization of Energy, the European Union and China, (Editor and Contributor), International Comparative Social Sciences (ICSS)-Book-Series, Vol. 21 (Leiden, Boston: Brill Academic Publishers, 2010).
M. P. Amineh & Yang Guang, Secure Oil and Alternative Energy, the Geopolitics of Energy Paths of China and the European Union, (Editor and Contributor), International Comparative Social Sciences (ICSS)-Book-Series, Vol. 27 (Leiden, Boston: Brill Academic Publishers, 2012).
The Transnationalization of China’s Oil Industry: Company strategies, embedded projects and relations with institutions and stakeholders in resource-rich countries (2013-2017)
Second joint research programme between the Institute of and African Studies IWAAS-CASS - Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Energy Programme Asia - IIAS, and the Royal Netherlands Academy for Arts and Sciences (KNAW).
This joint comparative research project analysed China’s increasing involvement with governments, local institutions and local stakeholders in the energy sectors of a number of resource-rich countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America (notably Sudan, Ghana, Saudi-Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Venezuela, and Brazil).
The project sought to determine patterns of interaction between national institutions and Chinese companies, their relationships to foreign investment projects, and the extent to which they are embedded in the local economies. China’s huge demand and novel, professedly non-political, approach to investment (including tied aid, loans, and trading credits) sets it apart from European international practices. The effects of investments in these resource-rich economies and societies, many of which are managed by China’s state-owned oil companies, require further analysis of transactions, flows of capital, employment and income-generation, etc. Our hypothesis assumed a growing symbiosis between these enterprises and local institutions on the one hand, and Chinese company and government behaviour on the other, that differs significantly from country to country because of differences in institutional context, and place- and time-specific economic opportunities. Our analysis of these investments and running operations may provide important general insights into the local effects of bilateral and global energy cooperation and the learning curves of international and local oil companies
The joint research project is managed by Dr. M.P. Amineh (The Energy Programme Asia –EPA- IIAS/UvA*) and Prof. Yang Guang (Institute of West Asian and African Studies –CASS**) in cooperation with the following Chinese and Dutch research centres and universities:
- Institute of West Asian and African Studies (IWAAS- CASS)
- Institute of Industrial Economy (IIE-CASS)
- Institute of Latin American Studies (ILAS-CASS)
- Centre for Latin American Studies (CEDLA-UvA)
- Department of Human Geography, Planning and International Development Studies (UvA)
- Department of Political Science (UvA)
- Leiden University
- Institute for Environmental Studies of VU Free University Amsterdam (VU)
- Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development, Utrecht University
- International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS)
* University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
** Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Beijing, China
Core team members
Mehdi Amineh (Programme Director EPA-IIAS and UvA); Yang Guang (Programme-Director –IWAAS-CASS); Chen Mo(IWAAS-CASS); Nana de Graaf (VU); Joyeeta Gupta (UvA); Barbara Hogenboom(CEDLA-UvA); Sara Hardus (UvA); Li Xiaohua (IIE); Liu Dong (IWAAS-CASS); Sun Hongbo (ILAS-CASS); Wina Graus (UU).
Kurt Radtke (Professor emeritus, Leiden University; Professor Waseda University,Tokyo 1998-2006), Gerd Junne (Professor emeritus, UvA), Leo Douw (UvA and VU); Henk Houweling (UvA and guest lecturer at the Institute of European Studies of the University of Macau)
- Chinese Exchange Programme of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Social Sciences (KNAW)
- Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS)
- International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS)
The results of this second research programme were published in the following publications:
Amineh, M.P. Yang Guang (Authors and editors. 2014). Transnationalization of Chinese National Oil Companies and the European Union Energy Security’. Perspectives on Global Development and Technology. The 13th Special Issue, No. 5 & 6, pp. 481-831.
Amineh, M.P. & Yang Guang (Editor and contributors. 2017). Geopolitical Economy of Energy and Environment: China and the European Union. International Comparative Social Studies; Vol. 36. Boston-Leiden: Brill.
Amineh, M.P., (Guest Editor and contributors. 2018) “Energy and Environment in China and the European Union”, Special Issue: African and Asian Studies, volume 17: 1-204.