China's Belt Road Initiative: Development as Grand Strategy and the Emerging Global Order

  • Summer schools
  • Global Academic Engagement
  • Application code LPS-IR209
  • Starting TBC
  • Short course: Open from October
  • Location: Beijing

IR209 Students

This course focuses on China’s Belt Road Initiative (BRI) and how Beijing is leveraging its preponderance of material power in pursuit of global leadership through the implementation of ‘development as grand strategy’ that places special focus on developing regions.

China's economic position, coupled to an astute use of finances flowing from its neo-mercantilist policies, has enabled it to become the leading trading partner and a significant investor in the developing world (or Global South). Moreover, through the onset of the BRI, the Global South is increasingly figuring in Beijing's expanding security interests and soft power provisions. Understanding how dynamics in this relationship are impacting upon a host of global and contemporary issues (BRICs, multilateralism, peacekeeping, the environment) is crucial to the shape of the 21st century. Students will acquire a deeper appreciation of the concept of agency linked to the varied response of countries and regional organizations to the BRI from policy elites to local communities in the rest of the world, to China’s growing structural power, as well as placing Chinese engagement within the context of other ‘traditional’ and emerging powers.

The course will be delivered via a mixed media approach (please refer to Method of teaching below for further information).

Video Play IR209

Video: Professor Chris Alden and Dr Alvaro Mendez discuss their LSE-PKU Summer School course.

Click here to see the full course outline

Programme details


Professor Chris Alden

Chris Alden is a Professor in International Relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), a senior research fellow with the South African Institute of International Affairs. Professor Alden taught International Relations at Wits University from 1990 to 2000 where he conducted research into South African foreign policy, China-Africa relations and post-conflict peace building. He completed his PhD at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy (Tufts/Harvard) and has held visiting fellowships at Tokyo University, Ritsumeikan University, Ecole Normale Superiere, International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) and a MacArthur Post-Doctoral Fellowship at Cambridge University.

Professor Alden is the author and editor of numerous books, including his ground-breaking publication China in Africa (Zed 2007), Emerging Powers and Africa (LSE-IDEAS 2013), a second edition of his successful Foreign Policy Analysis – new approaches (with A Aran, Routledge 2017). He has published in leading international journals and is frequently invited to speak at international conferences. His most recent publication China and Africa (Palgrave 2018) analyses how China’s links with Africa’s continental and regional organizations, especially the African Union, connects with security links it has developed with key African countries.

Dr Alvaro Mendez

Dr. Alvaro Mendez is Co-Director of the Global South Unit at the LSE, where he is also Senior Research Fellow in the International Relations Department. He is an Adjunct Professor at the University of Shanghai; a Senior Fellow at Fudan University; a Research Associate at the University of Bristol; and a former editor of Millennium-Journal of International Studies at the LSE. He currently lectures at the LSE on courses such as China and the Global South and Foreign Policy Analysis. LSE’s International Relations Department awarded him its 2003-2004 Teaching Prize. Dr. Mendez is an associate academic at the LSE Latin America and Caribbean Centre; and an International Advisory Board member of the Observatoire Politique de l'Amérique latine et des Caraïbes (OPALC) at Sciences Po. 

Dr. Mendez has lectured at the University of Shanghai, the Singapore Institute of Management, Universidad Torcuato di Tella (Argentina), Universidad del Pacifico (Peru), and the Geneva Centre for Security Policy. Dr. Mendez is currently co-authoring a major study on the foreign relations of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Peru and Mexico with respect to China, to be published in early 2019. He is co-editor of the forthcoming book New Development Assistance: Emerging Economies and the New Landscape of Development Assistance in collaboration with Fudan University. His most recent publications include Colombian Agency and the Making of US Foreign Policy (Routledge, 2017); Global Governance in Foreign Policy (Oxford University Press, 2017); and The China-Latin America Axis: Emerging Markets and their Role in an Increasingly Globalised World (co-authored, Palgrave Macmillan, 2018). More information is available here: LSE Experts Page

Method of teaching

Curriculum development of the course will be led by Prof Chris Alden. The course will be delivered via a mixed media approach, with Dr Mendez as lead co-lecturer and Dr Zheng as contributing lecturer/teaching assistant in situ at PKU and Prof Alden providing three lectures in pre-recorded video format complemented by a live webinar discussion seminar with PKU based students. 

Student feedback

"Intensive, intellectual and interesting. BRI is becoming increasingly complex by the day and this course builds a bridge of simplicity." Shubham Swaroop, India

"I had heard about the Belt and Road Initiative before, but never had the chance to actually study it. I consider that when history of the 21st century is to be taught in the next century, China will play a fundamental role in how things went. But it’s not necessary to go to a distant future to see this. It’s already happening, and it’s important for new generations to learn about Chinese development and its foreign policy model. The Belt and Road Initiative is intrinsic in all this. Its impacts will be global and it is important for universities to start teaching and doing research about it. LSE is a great example of an institution which has a global perspective and has the Chinese perspective really present in courses such as IR209, which is probably one of the first courses of its kind in the world. I feel proud to have been part of this. Professor Mendez is a really engaging person who invites you to do more research on your own and to connect dots in the global map. Literally. Professor Alden was also really kind in giving us time through the virtual platform, which really helped. Both professors were splendid and I look forward to being in touch with them, both academically and professionally. It was an intense course with many hours of reading but it’s definitely worth it. Specially being close to the epicentre of Chinese foreign policy. I would definitely recommend it." José Daniel Madrigal, Climate Reality Leader, USA

"Professor Mendez was a fantastic lecturer. He led the class with enthusiasm, energy and passion. His in-depth knowledge of developmental issues and the Global South was a real asset. He was happy to be challenged and engaged in real discussion with students. He was also extremely accessible, and responded to questions or emails following class. Attending his lectures was a real pleasure. My job involves promoting Belt and Road opportunities to companies via Hong Kong, so the course was an excellent opportunity to step back from my day-to-day priorities, and examine the BRI in the round. It was great to look at the theory behind the BRI, what impact it is having on the ground around the world, and how countries are responding to it. It was also invaluable to discuss BRI issues with fellow students from Europe, Africa, Asia, America and Latin America, and get an insight into the BRI from different perspectives. As the course touched on so many elements of China – foreign policy, economic policy, development policy, trade, history, multilateralism – the content was very varied and a fantastic introduction to how and why history influences China, how the modern Chinese state has developed, and how and why it is taking a more active role internationally than was the case previously. Attending the course has given me a greater depth of knowledge, which I have already used in interactions with contacts at work. I am now able to speak more authoritatively about the BRI, and have also passed this knowledge on to colleagues." James Gale, Civil Service, China

Click here to read more of our alumni testimonials.

Intensive, intellectual and interesting. BRI is becoming increasingly complex by the day and this course builds a bridge of simplicity


There are no prerequisites for this course.


Assessment will be based on a mid-term essay (worth 50% of the final mark) and a final exam (worth 50% of the final mark).

Preparatory reading list

The list below provides an indication of some of the main recommended texts for the course, but a full reading list and electronic course pack will be provided to registered students approximately six weeks before the beginning of the programme.

  • Alden, Chris. 2012. ‘China and Africa – The Relationship Matures’, Strategic Analysis 36:5 2012, pp. 701-707. 
  • Fornes, Gaston and Alvaro Mendez. 2017. The China-Latin American Axis: emerging markets and their role in an increasingly globalised world. Basingstoke: Palgrave. 
  • Lanteigne, M. 2016. Chinese Foreign Policy: an introduction (Third edition. ed.). London: Routledge. 
  • Norris, William. 2016. China’s Economic Statecraft: commercial actors, grand strategy and state control (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press). 
  • Shambaugh, David. 2014. China Goes Global: the partial power. Oxford University Press.

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