Campus, News

BU launches initiative to study Chinese development overseas

Boston University’s Global Development Policy Center has created a Global China Initiative to study China’s overseas development investments. COURTESY OF ADI CONSTANTIN/ GOOD FREE PHOTOS

Boston University’s Global Development Policy Center has created a new program, called the Global China Initiative, to study China’s overseas development investments.

GDP Center Director Kevin Gallagher said the project’s ultimate goals are to gain a better understanding of Chinese overseas development finance and find ways Western institutions can work with China on issues such as climate change, poverty and development.

The initiative, which launched Friday, was created in response to China’s emerging prominence on the world stage, he said.

China’s rise is a subject of interest for many different areas of study, Gallagher said, such as engineering, business, global studies, economics and public health.

“As the director of the GDP Center, what I’m always doing is trying to find different people from across campus with similar interests and to help them ramp up their research,” he said. “… China’s just such a global presence now. There’s a lot of folks across campus interested in it, and students as well.”

One component of the new initiative is the Global China Fellows Program, which allows students from BU and other institutions to study Chinese overseas development with funding from the GDP Center.

One long-term goal of this initiative, Gallagher said, is to build a group of students who can study the impacts of China’s investments in the United States and in China.

The initiative launched with a website that includes an interactive database on Chinese overseas energy finance. The program also published a case study on the impacts of Chinese overseas finance on air pollution and local communities in Bangladesh.

Joseph Fewsmith, a core faculty member of the initiative, wrote in an email that the program will “put BU on the map in China studies.”

Sandra Smithey, an environment program officer at the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, which helped fund the Global China Initiative, wrote in an email that the Mott Foundation believes Chinese investment in global development will be a major force for energy and infrastructure in developing countries.

“Understanding Chinese development finance is going to be critical for how developing countries can or cannot address their vulnerabilities to climate change, as well as define what development looks like for this century,” she wrote

The Mott Foundation has provided $2,575,000 to BU since 2014 for work in this field. The foundation is working with Global China Initiative members because they bring research to service organizations in places affected by Chinese finance, Smithey wrote.

Several BU students said they think the new initiative is a positive step to take.

Mimi Osisek, a senior in the Questrom School of Business, said she thinks China’s increasing global presence could be a positive force in the world.

“I think it’s good that they’re kind of stepping up and becoming kind of like another superpower country,” Osisek said. “[It’s] good for the benefit of the world because they are such a huge power.”

Shannon MacDonald, a sophomore in the College of General Studies, said she likes the idea because she thinks the initiative will help people understand the effects of China’s international presence.

“I think it’s positive in the fact that you can be more informed about it, seeing as it’s such a prominent relationship that we have,” MacDonald said. “I think it’s good to be more involved and knowledgeable about current subjects.”

Questrom junior Jonathan Luo said he thinks this initiative fits BU due to the university’s large international student population.

“It sounds like something that is definitely relevant to what BU’s trying to promote and what students want,” Luo said.

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