As China expands and advances its interests as a global power, it is important to understand how it projects its ambitions in other countries. Chinese diplomacy took a key turn in 2013 when it announced its One Belt, One Road strategy, or “一带一路”. Now commonly known as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the strategy was enshrined in the country’s constitution in 2017, becoming, in the view of many commentators, the keystone of Chinese foreign policy.
Now active in dozens of countries, the Belt and Road Initiative focuses on infrastructure development, but also includes a significant soft power component. China has made no secret of its intent to shape global information environments for its own benefit. It has invested in massive surveillance and censorship at home, international broadcasting, foreign media, online/mobile platforms, state-supported marketing, and a global expansion of its communications technology companies. It has also provided support for other countries to adopt its approach to a “sovereign internet” using a mix of regulatory influence, technology transfer, and aggressive policy promotion in key multilateral international forums.
While the Belt and Road Initiative plays out across all continents, local societies and communities hold differing perceptions of its benefits and potential harms, despite China’s extensive public relations and propaganda effort to promote its aims.
Our investigation looks at the intersection of Chinese technology transfer, soft power, communications technology buildout, and public information. Working with local researchers and writers in a dozen countries, we explore the ways China advances narratives that bolster its drive for global power, and how local perspectives either support or counter China’s ambitions.
Following, find 37 stories about China’s influence in a dozen countries, and visit the project’s public dataset, built in Airtable and providing relational links and filters for study. The dataset offers numerous points of entry for curious readers and researchers interested in exploring relationships within the data. It features nuanced analysis of 124 narratives about the Belt and Road Initiative, an annotated and contextualized collection of 748 media items from over a dozen countries, as well as annotated sets of dominant themes and media sources.
Visit the Civic Media Observatory main page.
Read the stories
Stories about China’s Belt and Road Initiative: Deal or steal?
Has China lost its edge in Venezuela?
China developed a new regional approach in Latin America after Venezuela's financial crises.
Sino-Brazilian relations in 2023: Will Brazil join the Belt and Road Initiative?
On March 28, Brazil’s president, Lula, will visit China. Experts do not expect that the Belt and Road Intiative might be a topic between the two leaders.
LIVE on March 23: China's Belt & Road initiative—New cycle, or fundamental shift?
Join us on YouTube Live on March 23 for a discussion of how recent world events have shaped the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in China and in the Global South.
Kenya-China relations strained as new government grapples with a debt crisis
A dispute over a Chinese store is now at the heart of a simmering strained relationship as Kenya struggles to restructure its Chinese debt.
Turkey–China partnership: Is Beijing's Belt and Road Initiative not delivering enough?
Beijing and Ankara position themselves as partners and global players in an Asia-Middle East-Europe corridor. Yet despite China's grand statements about its investment in Turkey, little has materialized so far.
Behind the scenes: Chinese influence in North Macedonia
While investments from Chinese companies amounted to only two percent of the total Foreign Direct Investment in North Macedonia in 2021, China maintains influence in numerous sectors and industries.
Zero benefits for Albania from China's Belt and Road Initiative
The prime minister, during a recent official visit in Japan, stated he saw no economic benefits from what is left of China's "17+1" economic cooperation bloc with Eastern European nations
The impact of China’s expanding footprint in Uzbekistan’s automobile industry
For Uzbek consumers, China’s BRI is seemingly bringing practical solutions in terms of access to car ownership but also tackling air pollution, and indirectly changing a culture of state monopolies and corruption.
Bangladesh reassesses its Belt and Road Initiative strategy with China as the US offers a new alternative
After big promises made in 2015, China's belt and Road Initiative is taking a much slower pace in Bangladesh as a result of pushback from communities and the Bangladeshi government.
Where will Prague's China policy go with the new president?
As the Czech Republic chooses a new president for the next five years, the pro-Beijing policy embraced by current president Miloš Zeman is likely to come to a halt.
China’s Belt and Road Initiative divides the Pacific
Global Voices Southeast Asia and Oceania editor Mong Palatino reviews the impact of China's economic and diplomatic expansion in the Pacific.
New report: Framing China's Belt and Road Initiative
Explore the effectiveness and impact of China's attempts to promote its Belt and Road Initiative through narratives, and read the full report produced by our Civic Media Observatory.
China's reputation challenged by perceptions of low-quality projects and products in Ethiopia
In contrast to the official praise, the Ethiopian public is often critical about the quality of these projects, as well as Chinese products sold in Ethiopia.
Why are Czech elites being captured by Beijing narratives?
The ties between outgoing president Zeman as well as economic relationships over the past few years, especially in the media, raise concerns about the public narrative around Sino-Czech relations.
Arabophone Chinese influencer divides public opinion in Egypt
Along with growing traffic to her social media platforms came a new tone in Wang's posts. What seemed as sincere patriotic pride, gave way to a seemingly targeted propaganda.
Is China exporting its surveillance state to Venezuela?
One of the largest Chinese defense companies has been pointed out for providing the Venezuelan government software to block access to the Internet and to spy on its detractors.
China in Ethiopia: Between a savior and an exploiter?
Whereas some online commentaries celebrate China’s help and contributions to Ethiopia, other discussions on Chinese projects tend to emphasize their exploitative features
Turkey’s Uyghur dilemma in the context of China’s Belt and Road Initiative
As economic ties between Ankara and Beijing strengthened, Turkey's policies on the treatment of Uyghurs in China weakened.
Chinese firms in Nigeria face widespread labour abuse allegations, tainting bilateral relationship
Nigerians in that company are "mandated to call their Chinese employers master or mistress. Male Nigerian workers are physically assaulted, while their female counterparts are sexually assaulted,” writes a whistleblower.
China as a cultural threat in Ethiopia: From food to cultural appropriation
Public interest in Chinese exotic eating habits and in potential appropriation of Ethiopian traditional culture speaks of the larger rifts in Sino-Ethiopian encounters
Chinese higher education programs attract increasing numbers of students from Kazakhstan
Education abroad and study exchanges have become instruments for the Chinese government to attract foreign students, especially from Kazakhstan. Does studying in China trigger support among Kazakhstani students?