Unpacking the State Spatiality of the Belt and Road Initiative: A Historical-Geographical Materialist Perspective on the Political-Economic Geography of Yunnan and Guangxi

Malthe Tue Pedersen & Alexander Linyu Qian Chen

Student thesis: Master thesis


As China continues to struggle with its economic slowdown following the global financial crisis, the central government has introduced the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) as a way to renew its growth. The existing literature has mainly analyzed the BRI from a state-centric perspective, primarily analyzing it as a welldefined and predetermined development project that has emerged from the strategic calculations of the central government. However, a state-centric perspective neglects the relevance of the subnational scale, overlooking the multi-scalar dynamics between the central and provincial government in shaping the policy content of the BRI. To overcome state-centrism, we adopt a historical-geographical materialist perspective through which we analyze the polymorphic character of Chinese state spatiality and how spatial planning is leveraged by central and provincial governments to resolve structural challenges confronting the continued reproduction of capital accumulation. Drawing upon critical realist methodology, we conduct a case study on the China-Indochina Peninsula Economic Corridor (CICPEC), which represents one of the six constituent corridors of the BRI, based on the dialectical method to elucidate in which ways it has constituted a policy response to the challenges arising from the transforming political-economic geography of Yunnan and Guangxi since 1978. We find that the CICPEC has been a path-dependent outcome to the challenges of uneven development between Yunnan and Guangxi and the coastal region. The central and provincial governments have jointly issued a double-opening strategy, consisting of two co-evolving state spatial strategies premised on: (a) inter-regional integration through the Western Development Strategy (WDS); and (b) extra-regional integration in the form of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS). We show that CICPEC represents the culmination of this multi-layered state spatial restructuring process, extending on both the WDS and the GMS. Furthermore, the partial recentralization of extra-regional integration processes under the CICPEC serves the purpose of improving the functional coordination between the coastal and western regions and their joint integration with global production networks

EducationsMSc in International Business and Politics, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2018
Number of pages125