Dangling Snood

This is an archived version of the PW Sources newsletter from Saturday, September 23. Sign up to receive PW Sources directly to your inbox here.


The tenth year of China’s Belt and Road Initiative will be marked in Beijing at next month’s Belt and Road Initiative Forum. Often referred to as a unitary policy project, the BRI consists of a sprawling series of investments spanning continents and infrastructure types, and financing methods.

In her 2023 book Sovereign Funds, Zongyuan Zoe Liu examines the evolution of China’s state financial institutions, and their role in global projects.

From the book:

“The Chinese sovereign funds complex comprises two leading funds with dozens of affiliated investment funds that collectively managed more than $2 trillion in assets at the end of 2019. No similar fund exists in the United States. Although several other countries have established funds using the same model, none can compare to the Chinese sovereign funds in scale. Among China’s sovereign funds, China Investment Corporation (CIC) has received the most scholarly interest and media attention. Besides CIC, China has several other, more obscure investment funds affiliated with the State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE), the foreign exchange management arm of the People’s Bank of China (PBoC). Although these SAFE-affiliated investment funds are not as well known as CIC, they have established a global network that collectively managed at least $1 trillion in assets as of 2019. Over the past decade, China’s sovereign funds have injected capital into several state-owned policy-oriented investment institutions, such as the China Development Bank, Export-Import Bank of China, and the Silk Road Fund. These policy-financing institutions have played an instrumental role in directly financing the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the center-piece of President Xi Jinping’s foreign policy that aims to construct a new global trade network aligned with China’s vision for the world.” 

+  “If we were forced to identify one, single driving force behind the Belt and Road Initiative, it would be Chinese state-owned enterprises.” The China Project’s series on The Belt and Road at Ten. Link.

+  Min Ye’s The Belt and Road and Beyond studies the BRI in the context of a theory of “state-mobilized globalization.” Link. And Ching Kwan Lee’s The Specter of Global China looks at Chinese-invested projects on the ground in Zambia. Link.

+  “China’s rescue loans differ from those of established international lenders of last resort in that they (i) are opaque, (ii) have relatively high interest rates, and (iii) are almost exclusively targeted to debtors of China’s Belt and Road Initiative.” Sebastian Horn, Bradley C. Parks, Carmen M. Reinhart, Christoph Trebesch on China as a lender of last resort. Link.


Knowledge Transfer 

MARÍA JOSÉ HARO SLY is a PhD candidate in Sociology at Johns Hopkins University. In a 2022 paper, Sly examines the relationship between the Suzhou industrial park in China and the Great Stone industrial park in Belarus to study attempts at management and tech transfer in BRI initiatives.  

From the paper

“The Suchou Industrial Park case is a relevant example for study because it succeeded in adopting management and technology transfer from Singapore, promoted indigenous innovation, generated spin-off from research to production, and is now exporting its experience to other regions in China and BRI countries. China is “exporting” its know-how on innovation models and management to Belarus because it is a strategic dot in the BRI network connecting China to Europe. By 2020, the Great Stone Industrial Park in Belarus had 68 companies from 16 countries among them China, Singapore, Belarus, Germany, Israel, and the US.”

+ + +

+  “It is not always easy to talk about what happens on ‘the supply side’ using the language of modern macroeconomics. It’s the kind of thing that sounds simple—well, how many things are we making?—but on closer inspection is intractably complex. The ‘supply side’ is a complicated web of companies selling zillions of different things to one another, and to households.” At Employ America, Alex Williams’s Supply Chain Monitor. Link.

+  “The tightening of intellectual property laws on farms throughout the African Union would represent a major victory for the global economic forces that have spent the past three decades in a campaign to undermine farmer-managed seed economies.” Alexander Zaitchik on IP and African agriculture. Link. And Alain Amariglio on Mexican beans and US patent law. Link.

+  Quinn Slobodian on the “elite losers of the 1990s settlement.” Link.

+  The US racial wealth gap, from 1860–2020. By Ellora Derenoncourt, Chi Hyun Kim, Moritz Kuhn, and Moritz Schularick. Link

+  Reka Juhasz and Claudia Steinwender on industrial policy and the great divergence in the long 19th century. Link.

+  Yiran Zhang on “The Care Bureaucracy.” Link.

+  “We analyze the centralization of political parties and elite networks that underlay the birth of the Renaissance state in Florence. Class revolt and fiscal crisis were the ultimate causes of elite consolidation, but Medicean political control was produced by means of network disjunctures within the elite, which the Medici alone spanned. Cosimo de’ Medici’s multivocal identity as sphinx harnessed the power available in these network holes and resolved the contradiction between judge and boss inherent in all organizations. Methodologically, we argue that to understand state formation one must penetrate beneath the veneer of formal institutions, groups, and goals down to the relational substrata of peoples’ actual lives. Ambiguity and heterogeneity, not planning and self-interest, are the raw materials of which powerful states and persons are constructed.” By John F. Padgett and Christopher K. Ansell. Link

Each week we highlight research from a graduate student, postdoc, or early-career professor. Send us recommendations: editorial@jainfamilyinstitute.org

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