June 14-15, 2021: Conceptualizing the “Belt and Road Initiative” and its Effects – An International Conference (University of Toronto, virtual)

Since Xi Jinping visited Kazakhstan in 2013 to unveil the “One Belt, One Road” strategy, China has spent nearly USD 1 trillion in development assistance and infrastructure financing in more than 60 countries. This massive and multi-faceted project—since renamed the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)—has set in motion social, economic, and political transformations with the potential to reshape the globe.

While there has been no shortage of analysis about the project’s origins and initial trajectories, our project is different. We view the BRI as a potential engine of transformations that are varied and difficult to predict; we set our sights on what occurs downstream, i.e. not in the minds of policymakers and project planners but on the ground in specific contexts. But what is the BRI? We welcomed scholars eager to leverage their respective disciplinary and empirical expertise to ask how we might best conceptualize the BRI and its emergent effects on Asian and Eurasian contexts. What historical antecedents, what conceptual frameworks, and what comparative points of reference should frame how we “think into” the BRI and its impact?

While the BRI’s effects will reveal themselves over the course of years and decades to come, we have identified three particularly promising conceptual themes: effects on migration, effects on labour relations, and effects on social mobilization.

Our discussions took place as a small conference held via video link with the University of Toronto.

April 15th, 2021 (12pm EST): Book Talk: Laleh Khalili Discusses “Sinews of War and Trade: Shipping and Capitalism in the Arabian Peninsula”

The Belt and Road in Global Perspective project is delighted to welcome Laleh Khalili (Professor of International Politics, Queen Mary U of London), who will discuss her book “Sinews of War and Trade: Shipping and Capitalism in the Arabian Peninsula” with Joseph McQuade (Richard Charles Lee Postdoctoral Fellow in the Asian Institute at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy).

On the map of global trade, China is now the factory of the world. A parade of ships full of raw commodities—iron ore, coal, oil—arrive in its ports, and fleets of container ships leave with manufactured goods in all directions. The oil that fuels China’s manufacturing comes primarily from the Arabian peninsula. Much of the material shipped from China are transported through the ports of Arabian peninsula, Dubai’s Jabal Ali port foremost among them. China’s “maritime silk road” flanks the peninsula on all sides.

Sinews of War and Trade is the story of what the making of new ports and shipping infrastructure has meant not only for the Arabian peninsula itself, but for the region and the world beyond. The book is an account of how maritime transportation is not simply an enabling companion of trade, but central to the very fabric of global capitalism. The ports that serve maritime trade, logistics, and hydrocarbon transport create racialised hierarchies of labour, engineer the lived environment, aid the accumulation of capital regionally and globally, and carry forward colonial regimes of profit, law and administration.

The event is sponsored by the Centre for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies, the Asian Institute, and the Department of Geography and Planning.

January 12th, 2021: The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation in a New Multi-Polar World

A senior diplomat with decades of service to the Republic of Uzbekistan, Vladimir Norov has had posts as Foreign Minister and Ambassador to Germany, Switzerland, Poland, and Belgium. In this event, Norov discusses his role as Secretary General of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and the broader context of this work within an increasingly multi-polar world.

Speaker: Secretary General Vladimir Norov

Online event hosted with the Centre for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies.


November 23rd, 2020: The Emperor’s New Road: China and the Project of the Century

Taking readers on a journey to China’s projects in Asia, Europe, and Africa, Jonathan E. Hillman reveals in a new book how the Belt and Road Initiative, Xi Jinping’s signature foreign policy vision, is unfolding on the ground.

Speaker: Jonathan E. Hillman (Center for Strategic & International Studies)

Online event hosted with the Centre for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies.