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Title: A Tale of Two Energy-Starved Nations: An Analysis of The Belt and Road Initiative’s Effect on Sustainable Development in Recipient Countries
Authors: Kuang, Hollis
Advisors: Flaherty, Martin
Department: Princeton School of Public and International Affairs
Class Year: 2021
Abstract: The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is China’s multi-trillion-dollar investment strategy aiding infrastructure development in nearly 70 developing countries around the globe as of today. The Belt and Road Initiative was first introduced in 2013 by president Xi Jinping and has been lauded as the most ambitious and expansive infrastructure project in history. As part of the initiative, China will finance the development of infrastructure such as ports, highways, coal-fired power plants and hydropower dams in developing countries, shaping their infrastructure for the decades to come. BRI has marketed as an initiative which would promote sustainable development, however the investments which have been made under the BRI tell a different story. Since BRI began, Chinese investment has contributed to the construction of over 240 coal projects in 25 countries along the Belt and Road, seemingly contradictory to initial goals and hopes set out for the Belt and Road Initiative. Coal emissions are the single biggest contributor to climate change. As the threat of climate change has become more eminent, scholars have begun to worry about the lasting impacts of BRI investment on recipient countries and their emissions. This thesis explores the impact of BRI investments on recipient countries’ progress towards their environmental sustainability goals. I hypothesize that Belt and Road Initiative investments hinder recipient countries’ from progressing towards their environmental sustainable development goals, but do not actively promote the development of unsustainable infrastructure. This hypothesis is tested through a comparative analysis between India (Non-BRI country) and Pakistan (BRI country), tracking their respective progress towards environmental sustainability. Drawing from this comparative analysis and existing scholarly literature, this thesis puts forth the following findings: First, BRI investment enables the development of unsustainable energy infrastructure, such as coal, in its recipient countries. However, China does not actively pressure recipient countries to take on the construction of unsustainable energy infrastructure. Second, BRI investment may be contributing to a regulatory chill in recipient countries and thereby hindering the implementation of renewable energy and climate change policy that will be paramount to meeting their sustainable development goals. To address these findings, this thesis recommends that the United Nations should advocate for increased involvement of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) in BRI Projects in the next Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation. The increased involvement of AIIB would increase and diversify financing options on projects for developing countries that they desperately need.
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Princeton School of Public and International Affairs, 1929-2021

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