China held an international conference last month that has advanced its massive Belt and Road Initiative, which will build infrastructural, trade and other links to nearly 70 countries. In three of China’s neighbors—Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Burma—energy projects, ports, dams and other Chinese investments promise potential benefits. But they also have prompted protests connected to local political disputes or even ethnic insurgencies. On June 20, USIP held a discussion of the broad impact of Chinese investments in these three countries, whose stable evolution remains a U.S. interest.

In each of these countries, foreign investment is vital to building economies and creating jobs. But Burma suspended work in 2011 on the massive Myitsone Dam project after years of protests by ethnic Kachin people, environmental activists and others. Local residents remain displaced by the project and Burma’s government faces as much as $800 million in debts to China if it formally cancels the project.

In Sri Lanka, China’s construction of a port at Hambantota has raised protests over land conflicts and the costs of government debts to China. Pakistan sees a forthcoming $50 billion-plus in Chinese investment as a much-needed economic boost, although ethnic Baluch have raised concerns that it threatens to marginalize them in their own province.

On June 20, specialists on China, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Burma held an exploration of how Chinese investment in these nearby states can help, or complicate, local conditions.

A recording of the event can be found on this event page.


Moeed Yusuf 
Associate Vice President, Asia Center, USIP

Priscilla Clapp 
Senior Advisor, Asia Center, USIP

Nilanthi Samaranayake 
Strategic Studies Analyst, CNA

Wang Lin 
Research Fellow, CBN Research Institute
Journalist, China Business News

Jennifer Staats, Moderator 
Director, China Program, Asia Center, USIP

Related Publications

Vikram Singh on the South China Sea

Vikram Singh on the South China Sea

Thursday, October 25, 2018

By: Vikram J. Singh

With trillions in goods moving through the South China Sea annually, it’s arguably the most important shipping lane on the planet, says Vikram Singh. While China says that it wants to keep the sea free and open for trade, most worryingly for the United States, Beijing has claimed it can deny access to military vessels, challenging the U.S.’ ability to maintain a balance of power in the region.

Economics & Environment; Global Policy

Why the U.S. Needs a Special Envoy for the Red Sea

Why the U.S. Needs a Special Envoy for the Red Sea

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

By: Payton Knopf

The Trump administration has appointed four special envoys to coordinate U.S. policy toward key hot spots: Iran, North Korea, Syria, and Afghanistan. Yet in the Red Sea—one of the most volatile and lethal regions of the world afflicted by several interconnected conflicts and rivalries that pose significant challenges to American interests—U.S. policy has been rudderless in large part due to the absence of a similar post.

Global Policy; Conflict Analysis & Prevention

America’s Vital Needs on China Policy: Realism and Strategy

America’s Vital Needs on China Policy: Realism and Strategy

Friday, September 28, 2018

By: USIP Staff

As U.S. national security debates focus heavily on the growing power and ambitions of China, two prominent members of Congress discussed how bipartisan policymaking can better protect America’s interests. Representatives Chris Stewart (R-UT) and Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD) emphasized a need for strong engagement in Washington between the political parties, and for focused U.S. attention on China’s military buildup, intellectual property theft and cyber activities. Both congressmen are members of the House of Representatives subcommittee that oversees the U.S. foreign affairs budget, and both have played leading roles on national security and intelligence issues.

Democracy & Governance; Economics & Environment; Global Policy

China’s Evolving Role as a U.N. Peacekeeper in Mali

China’s Evolving Role as a U.N. Peacekeeper in Mali

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

By: Jean-Pierre Cabestan

Chinese troops have been stationed in Mali for the last half-decade as part of the UN-mandated stabilization force. Deployed after rebel groups overran large portions northeastern Mali in 2013, it was just the second time Beijing had ever contributed combat troops to a UN peacekeeping mission. This Special Report examines how China is using its peacekeeping activities in Mali as an opportunity to train troops and test equipment in a hostile environment—and as a way of extending its diplomatic reach and soft power in Africa and beyond.

Global Policy

View All Publications