Shades of Red

Assessing China's Hegemony in the Belt and Road Initiative


  • Toufic Sarieddine Nagoya University Graduate School of International Development



China, Belt and Road Initiative, Hegemonic Rivalry


To address literature on U.S.-China hegemonic competition, this paper examines the properties of China among select Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) states which pertain to the features of hegemony per world-systems analysis and how it compares to the United States and regional powers Brazil and South Africa. I demonstrate that Beijing has made significant progress propagating its modus operandi by way of greater yuan use and imposing its legal code on examined BRI states, economic dominance through besting competitors in exports to these states, achieving an overall trade surplus as well as setting up free-trade zones to maintain and enhance this, and establishing a stream of revenue from examined states via high-interest, short-term loans, income from projects, and trade surpluses. In military dominance, China has made gains in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) and Pakistan. Meanwhile, Washington remains dominant in Peru, and, with Paris, more culturally dominant in SSA.


Acharya, A. 2018. “Asia after the Liberal International Order.” East Asia Forum, July 10.

Ali, Karim. 2021. “Prospects of Pakistani Rice: A Global Perspective.”

American Enterprise Institute. n.d. “China Global Investment Tracker.” American Enterprise Institute—AEI.

Backer, L. C. 2017. “Reflections on Shen Wei: One Belt One Road Initiative and Beyond in the Context of (Anti-)Globalization.” Coalition for Peace and Ethics Working Papers No. 4/2017.

BBC. 2021. “US remains top arms exporter and grows market share.” BBC News.

Benabdallah, L. 2019. “Explaining Attractiveness: Knowledge Production and Power Projection in China’s Policy for Africa.” Journal of International Relations and Development 22(2): 495–514.

Blanchard, J. M. F. and C. Flint. 2017. “The Geopolitics of China’s Maritime Silk Road Initiative.” Geopolitics 22(2): 223–245.

Bloomberg News. 2021. “China Posts Record Trade Surplus in October as Exports Surge.” Bloomberg.Com. November 11.

Campus France. 2022. “Les grandes tendances de la mobilité étudiante en Afrique subsaharienne.”

Canally, J. 2016. “The Chinese Yuan In Global Trade.” Fa-Mag.Com.

Carter, E., and B. Carter. 2022. “Exporting the Tools of Dictatorship: The Politics of China’s Technology Transfers to Africa.” AidData.

Castro, D., and M. McLaughlin. 2021. “Who Is Winning the AI Race: China, the EU, or the United States? — 2021 Update.” Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.

China Admissions. n.d. “International Students in China.” China Admissions.

ICEF Monitor - Market Intelligence for International Student Recruitment “China’s Foreign Enrolment Growth Flattened Out in 2018. 2019.”

Choyleva, D., and D. McMahon. 2022. “Belt and Road’s Next Chapter will be All About the Yuan.” Nikkei Asia.

d’Hooghe, Ingrid. 2021. “2 China’s BRI and International Cooperation in Higher Education and Research: A Symbiotic Relationship.” Pp. 35–58 in Global Perspectives on China’s Belt and Road Initiative: Asserting Agency through Regional Connectivity, edited by Florian Schneider. Amsterdam, Netherlands: Amsterdam University Press.

Dahan, M. E., and A. E. Yaakoubi. 2022. “China’s Xi calls for oil trade in yuan at Gulf summit in Riyadh.” Reuters, December 9.

Dahlan, M. 2018. “Dimensions of the New Belt and Road International Order: An Analysis of the Emerging Legal Norms and a Conceptionalisation of the Regulation of Disputes.” Beijing Law Review.

De Soyres, F., A. Mulabdic, and M. Ruta. 2019. “Common Transport Infrastructure: A Quantitative Model and Estimates from the Belt and Road Initiative.” Working Paper. World Bank.

Devonshire-Ellis, C., and S. Solstad. 2013. “China – The Great Infrastructure Developer.” China Briefing News.

di Valerio, F. 2023. “Why Are China’s Arms Exports Declining?”

Douet, M. 2023. “Russia overtakes China as Leading Arms Seller in sub-Saharan Africa.” Le Monde, March 28.

Dutton, P., I. Kardon, and C. Kennedy. 2020. “China Maritime Report No. 6: Djibouti: China’s First Overseas Strategic Strongpoint.” CMSI China Maritime Reports.

Economist Intelligence Unit. 2021. “Belt and Road Quarterly: Q4 2020.” Economist Intelligence, March 23. .

______. 2021. “Belt and Road Quarterly: Q2 2021.” Economist Intelligence, July 28. .

Eom, J., D. Brautigam, and L. Benabdallah. 2018. “The Path Ahead: The 7th Forum on China-Africa Cooperation” Research Report 01/2018; Issue 01/2018. Briefing Paper.

Farley, R. 2018. “The One Important Ingredient for Regional Hegemony That China’s Still Missing.” The Diplomat, April 3.

Flint, C. and X. Zhang. 2019. “Historical–Geopolitical Contexts and the Transformation of Chinese Foreign Policy.” The Chinese Journal of International Politics 12(3): 295–331.

Flint, C. and C. Zhu. 2019. “The Geopolitics of Connectivity, Cooperation, and Hegemonic Competition: The Belt and Road Initiative.” Geoforum 99: 95–101.

Gelis-Filho, A. 2019. “Geoculture: Missing in Action.” Pp. 167–184 in Evolution: Evolutionary Trends, Aspects, and Patterns, edited by Leonid E. Grinin and Andrey V. Korotayev. Volgograd, Russia: Uchitel Publishing House

Gowan, Peter. 2004. “Contemporary Intra-Core Relations and World Systems Theory.” Journal of World-Systems Research 10(2): 471–500.

Guo, E. 2018. “Now on Netflix: A Love Song to China’s Belt and Road Initiative.” The China Project, June 8.

Haitao, D., and L. Shanshan. 2021. “Cumulative Value of Trade in Goods Between China and BRI Countries Reaches $10.4 tln.”

Han, Z., and T. V. Paul. 2020. “China’s Rise and Balance of Power Politics.” The Chinese Journal of International Politics 13(1): 1–26.

Hilde, T., and D. Kellner. 1996. “Media Culture: Cultural Studies, Identity and Politics between the Modern and the Postmodern.” South Central Review 13(1): 84.

Hillman, J., and M. Goodman. 2018. “China’s ‘Belt and Road’ Court to Challenge Current US-led Order.” Financial Times.

Hopkins, T. K., and I. M. Wallerstein. 1982. World-Systems Analysis: Theory and Methodology. New York: SAGE Publications, Inc.

Human Dignity Trust. 2023. “A History of LGBT Criminalisation.” Human Dignity Trust.

IEA. n.d. “The World Needs More Diverse Solar Panel Supply Chains To Ensure A Secure Transition To Net Zero Emissions—News.” IEA.

Jackson, V. 2016. “Asian Security after US Hegemony: Spheres of Influence and the Third Wave of Regional Order.” The Asan Forum, October 14.

Jung, J.-Y., W. Wang, and S. W. Cho. 2020. “The Role of Confucius Institutes and One Belt, One Road Initiatives on the Values of Cross-Border M&A: Empirical Evidence from China.” Sustainability 12(24): Article 24.

Karatasli, Sahan Savas and Sefika Kumral. 2017. “Territorial Contradictions of the Rise of China: Geopolitics, Nationalism and Hegemony in Comparative-Historical Perspective.” Journal of World-Systems Research 23(1): 5–35.

Kuo, L. 2017. “China’s Wolf Warriors 2 in ‘War-Ravaged Africa’ gives the White Savior Complex a Whole New Meaning.” Quartz.

Larson, D. W. 2015. “Will China be a New Type of Great Power?” The Chinese Journal of International Politics, pov010.

Li, X., and S. Zhang. 2018. “Interdependent Hegemony: China’s Rise Under the Emerging New World Order.” China Quarterly of International Strategic Studies 04(02): 159–175.

Liang, Y. 2020. “RMB Internationalization and Financing Belt-Road Initiative: An MMT Perspective.” The Chinese Economy 53(4): 317–328.

Lien, Donald, Chang Hoon Oh, W. Travis Selmier. 2012. “Confucius Institute Effects on China’s Trade and FDI: Isn’t it Delightful when Folks Afar Study Hanyu?” International Review of Economics & Finance 21(1): 147–155

Lindley, D. 2021. “China’s Place on the NATO Agenda.” Strategic Comments 27(5): i–iii.

Liu, A., C. Lu, and Z. Wang. 2020. “The Roles of Cultural and Institutional Distance in International Trade: Evidence from China’s Trade with the Belt and Road Countries.” China Economic Review 61: 101234.

Liu, Z. Z. 2022. “China Is Quietly Trying to Dethrone the Dollar.” Foreign Policy, September 21.

Ma, A. 2019. “The US is Scrambling to Invest More in Asia to Counter China’s ‘Belt and Road’ Mega-Project. Here’s what China’s Plan to Connect the World Through Infrastructure is Like.” Business Insider.

Maçães, Bruno. 2019. Belt and Road: A Chinese World Order. London: Hurst and Company.

Major, A., and Z. Luo, 2019 “The Political-Military Foundations of China’s Global Ascendency.” Journal of World-Systems Research 25(2): 420–448.

Malik, A., B. Parks, B. Russel, and J. Jiahui Lin. N.d. “Banking on the Belt and Road: Insights from a New Global Dataset of 13,427 Chinese Development Projects.” AidData.

Munemo, J. 2021. “The African Continental Free Trade Area Is a Boon for China.” The Diplomat, August.

Nadeem, M. 2019. “China Boosts Soft Power in Pakistan via Film and Social Media.” Reuters.

Nye, J. 2015. “The Limits of Chinese Soft Power.” Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.

The Observatory of Economic Complexity. N.d. “Electronics.”

Paradise, J. F. 2009. “China and International Harmony: The Role of Confucius Institutes in Bolstering Beijing’s Soft Power.” Asian Survey 49(4): 647–669.

Pham, H., and A. Chuwen Dai. 2021. “The China International Commercial Court.” White and Case LLP.

Polk, A. 2018. “China Is Quietly Setting Global Standards.” Bloomberg, May 6.

Qi, Jing. 2021. “Impact of Rising International Student Numbers in China.” University World News, May 22.

Quero, J. 2020. “China’s Impact on the Middle East and North Africa’s Regional Order.” Contemporary Arab Affairs 13(1): 86–104.

Rajagopalan, R. 2021. “The China-Pakistan Partnership Continues to Deepen.” The Diplomat, July.

Reilly, J. 2015. “The Role of China as an Education Aid Donor.” UNESCO, Background Paper Prepared for the Education for All Global Monitoring Report.

Sarieddine, Toufic. 2021. “Middle Kingdom Enters Middle East: A World-Systems Analysis of Peripheralization along the Maritime Silk Road Initiative.” Journal of World-Systems Research 27(1): 177–201.

Safdar, M. T. 2021. “The Local Roots of Chinese Engagement in Pakistan.” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, June 2.

Schuman, M. 2022. “Why Biden’s Block on Chips to China Is a Big Deal.” The Atlantic, October.

Siddiqa, A. 2019. “Pakistan—From Hybrid-Democracy to Hybrid-Martial Law.” Journal of South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies 42(2): 52.

Silk Road Briefing. 2022. “China’s RMB Settlements Along BRI Markets Up 19.6%.” Silk Road Briefing, October 6.

Standish, R. 2022. “Pakistan Tops New Index Measuring Chinese Influence Around The World.” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

Statista. n.d. “Consumer Electronics—Worldwide.” Statista.

Stuenkel, Oliver. 2016. Post-Western World: How Emerging Powers Are Remaking Global Order. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.

Taylor, P. J. 1999. Modernities: A Geohistorical Interpretation. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.

The Express Tribune. 2022. “Super Seeds Help Boost Pakistan’s Rice Exports: Hybrid Rice from Chine Replaces Some Backward Local Varieties.” The Express Tribune, July 27.

Thomas, Andrea. 2018. “Germany Vetoes Chinese Purchase of Business Citing Security Grounds.” The Wall Street Journal, July 26.

United States Trade Representative. 2023. “African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).”

von Hein, Matthias. 2021. “Global Arms Industry Flourishing Despite COVID.” Deutsche Welle, December 6.

Wallerstein, Immanuel. 1984. The Politics of the World-Economy: The States, the Movements and the Civilizations. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

______. 1991. Geopolitics and Geoculture: Essays on the Changing World-System. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

______. 2004. World-Systems Analysis: An Introduction. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Wezeman, S. T., P. D. Wezeman, A. Fleurant, A. Kuimova, D. L. da Silva, and N. Tian. 2020. “Trends in International Arms Transfers, 2019.” Sipri.

Wolf, S. 2020. “The Growing Security Dimension of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.” Instituto Per Gli Studi Di Politica Internazionale, March 4.

Workman, D. n.d. “China’s Rice Imports by Country 2021.”

World Integrated Trade Solution. N.d. “Peru Machinery and Transport Equipment Imports by Country and Region 2020.”

______. N.d. “SSA Machinery and Transport Equipment Imports by country and region 2020.”

World Population Review. n.d. “Semi-Periphery Countries 2023.”

Yongnian, Zheng and Lance L. P. Gore. 2014. “Introduction: China Enters the Xi Era.” Pp. 17–32 in China Entering the Xi Jinping Era, edited by Zheng Yongnian and Lance L. P. Gore. London, UK: Routledge.

Young, Ellie and Anonymous. 2022. “Peru: Beijing’s Global Media Influence 2022 Country Report.” Freedom House.

Yuan, Z., and Zhang, Z. 2016. “China Boosts Soft Power by Training Foreign Journalists.” China Daily, October 17.

Zhang, X. 2017. “Chinese Capitalism and the Maritime Silk Road: A World-Systems Perspective.” Geopolitics 22(2): 310–331.




How to Cite

Sarieddine, T. (2023). Shades of Red: Assessing China’s Hegemony in the Belt and Road Initiative. Journal of World-Systems Research, 29(2), 524–549.