SOAS University of London

SOAS China Institute

Few Strings Attached: Why Countries Join the Belt and Road Initiative

M. Taylor Fravel
Prof. M. Taylor Fravel (Security Studies Program, Massachusetts Institute of Technology)

Date: 26 April 2021Time: 5:00 PM

Finishes: 26 April 2021Time: 6:30 PM

Venue: Virtual Event

Type of Event: Webinar



Although the motives for China’s development of the Belt and Road Initiative have been well studied, scholars have yet to examine why partner states seek to join in the first place. Professor Fravel will talk about his paper, which seeks to fill this gap by focusing on the memorandums of understanding (MOUs) that states sign with China to formally join BRI. Based on the analysis of these MOUs, it is argued that, overall, the costs for joining the BRI are low but the potential benefits are high. Thus, most states should join the BRI unless they view the costs as higher or the benefits as lower. Specifically, it suggests that democracies and states with close security ties to the United States should be less likely to join because they view joining a Chinese-led initiative as more costly. The statistical analysis using a new dataset of BRI MOUs and two paired case studies provide empirical support for this argument.

About the speaker

M. Taylor Fravel is the Arthur and Ruth Sloan Professor of Political Science and Director of the Security Studies Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Taylor studies international relations, with a focus on international security, China, and East Asia. His books include, Strong Borders, Secure Nation: Cooperation and Conflict in China’s Territorial Disputes, (Princeton University Press, 2008) and Active Defense: China's Military Strategy Since 1949 (Princeton University Press, 2019). His other publications have appeared in International Security, Foreign Affairs, Security Studies, International Studies Review, The China Quarterly, The Washington Quarterly, Journal of Strategic Studies, Armed Forces & Society, Current History, Asian Survey, Asian Security, China Leadership Monitor, and Contemporary Southeast Asia.

Taylor is a graduate of Middlebury College and Stanford University, where he received his PhD. He also has graduate degrees from the London School of Economics and Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar. In 2016, he was named an Andrew Carnegie Fellow by the Carnegie Corporation. Taylor is a member of the board of directors of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations and serves as the Principal Investigator for the Maritime Awareness Project.


This webinar will take place online via Zoom. Click here to register.

Chair: Professor Steve Tsang (Director, SOAS China Institute)

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