Global China

China’s global footprint is growing at an increasing rate, especially in the developing world, where a need for infrastructure and investment is fuelling a huge expansion of Chinese presence in the form of private sector actors, state-owned enterprises, workers and migrants. This research spoke aims to uncover, through forensic empirical research, how this economic engagement is unfolding, including, who, how, where and why. While the geopolitical and strategic implications will be important to this research, it will be only one dimension of the spoke. Its research will seek to understand the impacts on regional societies and economies, both positive and detrimental of China’s “Going Out” policy and the “Belt and Road Initiative”. This spoke will thus have a clear goal of understanding the “lived experience” “on the ground” with regard to Global China, rather than being restricted to the “high politics” of diplomacy and strategy. It will focus initially on China’s presence and impacts in Southeast Asia and Pacific Island nations, reflecting the strengths of the ANU. The spoke will be open to examining China’s role elsewhere, including South Asia, the Middle East and Africa, with a view to gaining the benefits of comparative study.

Photo credit: jbdodane/flickr.

Gregory Raymond

Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, College of Asia & the Pacific

Dr Denghua Zhang

Denghua Zhang

Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, College of Asia & the Pacific

Dr Paul D'Arcy

Paul D'Arcy

Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, College of Asia & the Pacific

Pierre van der Eng

Pierre van der Eng

Research School of Management, College of Business & Economics

Pichamon Yeophantong

School of Humanities and Social Sciences, UNSW Canberra

Dr Graeme Smith

Graeme Smith

Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, College of Asia & the Pacific

Keith Barney

Crawford School of Public Policy, College of Asia and the Pacific

Peter Connolly

Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, College of Asia and the Pacific

Anna Buckley

Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, College of Asia and the Pacific

Len Ang

Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, College of Asia and the Pacific

1. ‘The China Model’ Workshop conference
This workshop will bring together a select group of scholars, primarily nationally-based, but with some overseas speakers via Zoom, in the second half of 2021. The aim would be to focus on the ways in which China is becoming an exemplar for regional countries, both in the broad with respect to its “market Leninism”, but also in more particular ways, such as being a service provider for states wanting to control their internet, surveil their citizens, or establish Shenzhen-style Special Economic Zones.

2. International seminar series
A program of regular speakers with expertise on Global China themes, with scholars who are pioneered research on China’s activities and impact in various parts of the world.

3. International Conference
An international conference in 2022, on the theme of “Chinese Companies abroad: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”.

4. The People’s Map of Global China (Franceschini)
The People’s Map of Global China uses an interactive, open access, and online ‘map’ format to provide updated and updatable information on various dimensions of Global China in their localities. The Map consists of profiles of countries and projects, sortable by project parameters, Chinese companies and banks involved, and their social, political, and environmental impacts.

5. Pacific switch research project (Zhang)
The Solomon Islands’ diplomatic switch from Taiwan to China in September 2019 was a new development marking China’s fast inroads into the Pacific region. This issue has triggered growing debates in Solomon Islands. The Solomon Islands government has also signed up to China’s Belt and Road Initiative. In this context, this proposed research project aims to investigate: (1) local groups’ perceptions of China, focusing on the groups of officials, business, academia, media, civil societies and ordinary Solomon Islanders; (2) recent development of BRI in Solomon Islands; and (3) the implication of growing China-Solomon Islands relations for traditional development partners. The project will increase our understanding of China’s influence in Solomon Islands and the Pacific region at large. In terms of research collaboration, this project will involve one researcher from the Solomon Islands National University as collaborator and two local researchers as research assistants. This will promote research collaboration between CIW scholars and scholars in the Pacific region. The requested amount of A$5,000 in Year 1 will mainly be used to hire local research assistants to conduct survey/interviews under Covid-19 conditions, including in outer islands, and also to buy mobile phone credits to do interviews from Australia (many participants do not have access to reliable internet in the Pacific).

6. Chinese softpower in the Pacific (Zhang)
The Chinese government is providing a growing number of government scholarships to Pacific island countries. These government scholarship schemes are a significant component of Chinese foreign policy and aid program. By employing both quantitative and qualitative methods, this research project will analyse the Chinese scholarship scheme in the Pacific and examine its impact on soft power projection. It will focus on three case countries: Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Vanuatu. In terms of research collaboration, this project will involve two researchers from the Pacific as collaborators and three local researchers as research assistants. This will promote research collaboration between CIW scholars and scholars in the Pacific region.

7. Local- transnational Chinese networks in mainland Southeast Asia (Raymond-Buckley)
This project will examine four Chinese infrastructural projects in mainland Southeast Asia. It will analyse how Chinese state and non-state actors engage with Chinese diaspora communities and local ethnic groups in each location. It will analyse the depth and significance of transnational, political, military, and civilian connectivity and any geostrategic implications. Employing a case study approach and utilising Chinese, Thai and Laos language capabilities, this study will examine four Chinese initiatives in Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia and Thailand. It will analyse the depth of transnational, political, military and civilian relationships connected to each project and examine local socio-economic conditions that influence project decisions, speed, connectivity, profitability and the potential for civil-military use. As each infrastructure project is at a different implementation stage, surveying the projects as a set will offer insight into how China shapes its relationships and customises tactics across the region to achieve long-term goals.

8. Laos-China Railway impacts (Barney)
In 2021 the Laos China Railway is expected to commence operations, making it the first BRI project to be completed in mainland Southeast Asia. This project will examine the intersection between geo-economics and local market development in northern Laos. The project will link to an existing project, funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) on teak and plantation forestry value chains in northern Laos. The focus will be on examining what sort of Lao plantation or agribusiness value chains firms, actors and networks, might be able to link to the new transportation opportunities being presented by railway, and the various challenges and barriers to that.

9. China and local governance in SE Asia and the Pacific (Raymond- Buckley- Len – Connolly)
Local governments in Southeast Asia and the Pacific are under increasing pressure. They must manage the implementation of Chinese investment projects approved at the national-level, whilst at the same time maintaining their role as representatives of local communities, many of who may be negatively impacted by the projects. This project will hold an international online workshop with scholars across the two regions to examine this topic. It will build on the community of scholars established in late 2019 through the CIW-funded Raymond-Buckley workshop on the integration of mainland Southeast Asia (Chiang Mai, December 2019).

Updated:  6 October 2016/Responsible Officer:  Director/Page Contact:  CAP Web Team