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Game Changers: China’s High-Profile International Development Projects

As a Wilson China Fellow, Austin’s research will investigate when and why powerful governments such as China invest in high-profile development projects abroad, and whether these projects contribute to states’ popular influence in developing countries. High-profile development projects include large-scale transportation infrastructure and other “megaprojects,” as well as “prestige projects” like sports stadiums and conference centers. Though such projects have different basic features and underlying motives, they are similar in their high levels of visibility and national salience within developing countries. As such, beyond their physical impacts, high-profile projects may disproportionately shape attitudes toward donor and host governments, even among citizens that never actually interact directly with physical project sites. For China, these projects are potential “game changers” that produce out-sized effects on China’s popular influence in developing countries–for better or worse.

Using a combination of original datasets and surveys, this research will provide a systematic accounting of China’s high-profile development projects worldwide since 1949. Understanding the nature and consequences of China’s high-profile development projects will help shed light on China’s changing approach to global development and pursuit of international influence along the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and other developing regions.

Austin Strange
Austin Strange

Austin Strange is an Assistant Professor of International Relations in the Department of Politics & Public Administration at the University of Hong Kong. In 2021, Austin is also a postdoctoral fellow with the Columbia-Harvard China and the World Program. He received a Ph.D. in Government from Harvard University, M.A. from Zhejiang University, and B.A. from the College of William & Mary.

Austin researches and teaches Chinese foreign policy, international political economy, and international development. His first research agenda investigates the aims and impacts of contemporary China’s overseas development finance. He is currently researching shifts in China’s approach to global development and China’s influence in developing countries since 1949. Austin’s second research agenda examines the domestic sources of trade and diplomacy across Chinese history. His research employs observational datasets, surveys, interviews, an\d archival work. More information is available at

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