The Newsletter 85 Spring 2020

IIAS Fellow in the spotlight: Gul-i-Hina Shahzad

China’s Belt and Road Initiative

My research stay at IIAS has been incredibly enriching. While working on my doctoral research project on China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), I had a tremendous opportunity to be a part of and benefit from the ongoing project Building the New Silk Road. Chinas Belt and Road Initiative in Context at IIAS under the guidance of Prof. Richard Griffiths, who is coordinating the project. This project aligns aptly with my research goals as I analyze the BRI and its domestic political implications in the participating BRI countries focusing on two specific aspects, namely its impact on the processes of democratization and regime change in the countries involved. Specifically, I take the case of Pakistan to examine the variation as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is considered to be the flagship project of the BRI with its huge investment and infrastructure development. Prof. Griffiths has been generous enough to provide me with his time and constant feedback on my research and data collection.

The IIAS fellowship has not only enabled me to conduct my research in a conducive environment, but it also provided me with a dynamic platform to engage and connect with a relevant community of scholars. I was fortunate to participate in organizing the event for the Chinese delegation of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences (SASS) only after two weeks of joining the IIAS fellows team. In this event, I presented my preliminary work on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and discussed the pertinent opportunities and challenges for Pakistan. This discussion allowed me to situate the case of Pakistan in a broader context.

During my stay at IIAS, I have spent most of my time in the IIAS office or the library, writing in beautiful Leiden and The Hague. My personal favorite has been the Asian Library at Leiden University which holds an immensely rich collection of Asian studies, including China. The Sinology collection of the library is one of the largest in the country with its indispensable sources, books, journals, and articles on Chinese Studies and several databases available both in English and Chinese languages.

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

The old silke rout as seen from Karakorum Highway.


Besides my research, I have also enjoyed exploring the local culture and travelling around the Netherlands. Other than visiting the major cities of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and Haarlem, I ventured upon a road trip to a small Dutch village, Volendam, where I tried on the traditional Dutch costume and jewelry, and walked on the old sea dike alongside a stretch of colorfully painted houses. I also visited the beautiful historical fortified city Sloten in the Province of Friesland, and managed to attend the Chinese New Year celebration in the northern Province of Groningen. I value such cultural experiences immensely, for they are an essential part of living in a new place and equally crucial for one’s learning and growth.

After my IIAS fellowship, I will be spending the next months in Milan, Italy, to continue working on my PhD research project. Later this year, I also intend to visit Pakistan and spend some time in Gwadar, Balochistan for my research. I am thankful to the IIAS team for making my research stay intellectually stimulating and rewarding. The staff and a vibrant group of fellow researchers have been a constant source of encouragement and inspiration for me. I will cherish the time spent here in the Netherlands as I continue on my academic journey.