Scale and Agency in China’s Belt and Road Initiative: The Case of Kenya
China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a vast infrastructure and development project spanning a large swathe of earth’s surface. In order to get an analytical handle on such a large project, this paper examines the impact of the BRI through the prism of a major infrastructure project currently taking place in Kenya on the East coast of Africa, namely the LAPSSET (Lamu-South Sudan-Ethiopia) corridor. While the project has been heralded by local officials as an economic game-changer for the country, it has mobilised a series of social responses, including discourses on corruption and the fostering of political factionalism, as well as anxieties surrounding environmental impacts and local livelihoods. In discussing these issues from a local perspective, it is noteworthy that the question of Chinese agency, rather than looming in the foreground, recedes far into the backdrop. Such observations raise questions of scale and agency in relation to the BRI: in its broadest sense, a Chinese-branded geopolitical strategy becomes, in a narrower sense, a reterritorialisation of domestic politics and the environment.
KeywordsBelt and Road Initiative Environment Infrastructure Kenya LAPSSET
The author would like to thank the Social Science Research Council’s (SSRC) Inter-Asia Fellowship, which supported the research for this article.
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