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The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is an ambitious Chinese program to influence global affairs through geoeconomics. Since its inception in 2013, it has become fundamental to understanding China’s grand strategy. Eight years later the BRI has over 145 member countries, many of whom seek infrastructure development. This pre-submission seminar by Pete Connolly examines changes in Chinese statecraft across Timor-Leste, PNG, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Fiji, since the introduction of the BRI in 2018 and 2019.
Based on field research including more than two hundred interviews across China and the five case study countries, this presentation will demonstrate that the methods and coordination of Chinese political, economic and security statecraft changed in the Pacific between 2014 and 2021. It will do this by revealing shifts in the resourcing of China’s statecraft and the influence sought in doing so. This talk will also examine the role of Melanesian agency at the state and local levels in accepting, rejecting or shaping such influence. This research makes an original contribution to the understanding of how China’s involvement in Melanesia has changed over the past decade, how the BRI operates in practice, and what this could mean for Melanesian communities.