Belt and Road Initiative in Northern Myanmar: The Local World of China’s Global Investments




Belt and Road Initiative, Chinese Investments, Cross-Border Economic Zone, Kachin, Myanmar


Macro-level discourses on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) firmly establish China as the sole agent in driving infrastructure development. This article contends that often obscured from view by the discourses on China’s dominance are the host country authorities’ exercising of agency in infrastructure development under their own jurisdiction. The paper focuses on the actions of the local host country authorities in developing an infrastructure megaproject as a part of the BRI in northern Myanmar’s Kachin State. Currently under suspension, the Myitkyina Economic Development Zone (MEDZ, also known as Namjin Industrial Zone) would make an ambitious spatial intervention with wider implications and risks. The paper scrutinizes the ‘strategies’ by the local authorities in 2019-2020 in their attempts to move the project forward covertly. These include exploiting the project’s designation as an economic developing zone to conceal its scale and the inclusion of a major urban development, lack of transparency, and alleged abuse of power.

Author Biography

Karin Dean, Tallinn University

Karin Dean is a senior researcher at the School of Humanities, Tallinn University. She is a political geographer interested in studying bordering practices in and through a diversity of spaces, thinking through volumetric and more-than-human assemblages. Her research draws on the China-Myanmar-India borderlands. She currently leads the Eur-Asian Border Lab (, a platform that strives to catalyze trans-regional conversations and synergies between the Euro-American and Asian border scholars.


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