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Accepted Paper:

Chinese firms in the Belt and Road infrastructural projects of Kenya  
Yabo Wu (Maastricht University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores how both Chinese SOEs and private firms are situated in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and how Chinese state-business relations unfolded within BRI infrastructural implementations in Kenya, a key maritime pivot for the BRI.

Paper long abstract:

A nearly-decade development of the ‘Belt and Road’ Initiative (BRI) has not led to a consensus on how to conceptualize this initiative, for which one group of scholars stipulates it as a grand scheme and emphasizes the state-led logic while others demonstrate, via scattered BRI implementations, that Chinese firms operate in a decentralized and dynamic manner to interact with host governments, stakeholders, firms, financiers, and communities, and therefore, fit in the host environment. This research bridges these two groups by interrogating how Chinese firms are situated in the BRI and how Chinese state-business relations are unfolded in BRI infrastructural implementations. We contextualize our research in Kenya, a key maritime pivot for the BRI, and employ a relational analysis approach to interpret the state-firm dynamics in BRI projects in the infrastructure sector. Overwhelming attention has been given to Chinese state-owned enterprises (SOEs) participating in infrastructural construction in Kenya, or more generally, in Africa. This paper contributes towards a more comprehensive direction and covers Chinese SOEs and private firms in various infrastructure projects. This paper aims to gain a more in-depth knowledge of how the Chinese state and different Chinese firms co-construct China’s geopolitical BRI scheme. Data collection comes from three-month fieldwork in Kenya to interview managers in Chinese firms, Kenyan scholars, journalists, and follow-up conversations with informants after the field trip.

Panel Poli20
Infrastructural futures: situating Africa within global connectivity initiatives [CRG African Politics and International Relations]
  Session 1 Friday 2 June, 2023, -