Chinese ecogovernmentality of the Green Belt and Road: Regulations, rationalities, and responsibilities

Authors: Xiaofeng Liu*, University of Hong Kong
Topics: Political Geography, Environment, China
Keywords: Belt and Road Initiative, Green Belt and Road, ecocivilization, governance, governmentality, China
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In response to the alleged impacts of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) infrastructure projects across several continents on local environmental and societal conditions, in 2015, the Chinese government proposed the Green BRI to mediate these impacts. At the same time, the Green BRI provides a platform for the dissemination of Chinese environmental norms and concepts. While there is a growing body of scholarship examining concepts such as ecological governance, ecogovernmentality, and ecocivilization, little work has been done to tie the behind-the-scenes regulatory work that goes into generating the norms, rationalities, and subjectivities underlying the Green BRI. To close this gap, this paper scrutinizes the “greening” of the BRI through expert interviews, participant observation, and analysis of various policies and reports. Instead of treating the process as a centralized and purely state-dominated campaign, we trace the interactions and power relations between state and non-state actors to reveal three main and closely interlinked components: 1) the establishment of greening regulations by a diverse and competitive array of Chinese government agencies and ministries; 2) the creation of a negotiable space in which regulations are flexibly implemented and enforced; and 3) the transformation of regulations into corporate responsibilities and the creation of self-governing entrepreneurial subjects. In sum, through ethnographic and policy analysis, we shed light on the making of the regulations, rationalities, and responsibilities underlying the materialities of the Green BRI.

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