What we Have (and Have not) Learned from Early Research on China’s Engagement in the Pacific
Keywords:China, Pacific Island Countries, Development Assistance, Foreign Aid, Belt and Road
Culling a selective yet representative set of works on China’s growing presence in Pacific Island countries (PICs), this essay reviews and critically assesses early contributions to the field. To date, these contributions been motivated by two primary goals: a) gathering high-quality descriptive data on precisely what China does in individual PICs, in what amounts projects are funded, and by which actors projects are designed, negotiated, and carried out, and b) attempts to theorise China’s motivations for providing such aid and investment. However, we also find that research on the way local actors shape and influence Chinese engagement, and how China adapts to local norms and behaviours, is thin at best, as are appraisals of the impacts of Chinese aid at the local and national levels more broadly. We conclude that these extant gaps comprise an agenda for further empirical research, and that filling them necessitates attention to Pacific experiences of Chinese aid at the micro, meso, and macro levels.
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