|MIT Department: Political Science
Faculty Mentor: Prof. M. Taylor Fravel
Undergraduate Institution: Spelman College
My name is Naomi Aladekoba and I am a junior at Spelman College. I am majoring in International Studies, and minoring in both Spanish and Asian Studies. I am passionate about international relations and the study of foreign languages. My current research interests include international development and trade, human rights, Chinese foreign policy, and US-China relations. In the future I hope to contribute to the discovery of solutions to the inequalities that exist in our current international system. I also want to foster the same interest I have for world politics and foreign languages in young students of color, specifically black women, as we are a minority in this field. I enjoy singing, playing my guitar, reading, hiking, and rollerskating.
From Investment to Influence? Determining the Effects of the Belt and Road Initiative on Participating States
Naomi Aladekoba1, Dr. Taylor Fravel 2, Eleanor Freund 2
1Department of International Studies, Spelman College
2Department of Political Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
China’s Belt and Road Initiative has raised international concerns about ‘debt trap diplomacy’ and the possibility that China could use this foreign policy initiative to assert its dominance in the international system. However systematic research on the impact of the BRI has yet to be conducted, and therefore, it is difficult to determine whether current criticisms of the BRI are overstated or of reasonable concern. The purpose of this project was to provide qualitative analysis on specific case studies, to assess the impact of BRI construction contracts on participating states, and explore potential pathways for Chinese influence. The case studies highlight countries with the greatest absolute and relative changes in Chinese construction contracts after joining the BRI. They are therefore the most likely cases for greater Chinese influence, following the assumption that greater economic interactions in the asymmetrical economic relationship between China and BRI countries can translate to potential pathways of influence. Results indicate that for some countries that experienced greater changes in economic interactions, China is able to exercise some political influence through public/ elite opinion (increasing its soft power), and is able to garner support on key issues of salience. However, it is important to note that influence is difficult to measure, and alignment on certain issues may be a result of previous ties with China that predate the BRI.