On the financialization of green: Chinese operations along the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)
The project explores how the rise of Chinese green finance along the BRI is (re)shaping global sustainable financial practices and thus the relationship between nature and finance.
Since Xi Jinping’s call for a new ecological civilization (shengtai wenming), China’s financial system has sought green routes.
The issuance of green bonds and the adoption of green financial securitization for funding green infrastructures are among the main tools China has adopted in its global extraversion through Belt & Road Initiative (BRI). It is now clear that the extent of Chinese-led green credit along the BRI will have a make-or-break role in meeting the Paris agreement’ global emissions targets.
To face this challenge, attention to the so far under investigated processes of standardization and harmonization of green financial instruments beyond China’s borders is increasingly urgent. Whilst a common “green” language is yet to be established, the way financial products are labelled and valued as “green” also remains contingent and unclear.
The overall rationale of this research is to advance the current understanding of the “financialization of nature” in its global and spatial variety.
To date, while green finance is indistinctly invoked as a solution and fix to the double crisis of the environment and capitalism, little specificity is given on how the duality green and finance is deployed and assembled by different forms of capital, public and private institutions and local actors along the BRI.
The research starts from the premises that the principles of neoclassical economics are ill-equipped to solve the current “double” crisis of capitalism, and new analytical tools are needed. By combining the disciplines of economic geography and social studies of finance, the research will adopt an interdisciplinary approach combined with a multi-sited ethnography to assess green finance within a critical and postcolonial perspective.
The research will consist in an in-depth qualitative investigation of the development of Chinese green finance, focusing on the modalities in which Chinese sustainable financial infrastructures are labelled as green and made tradable. It will take as a case study the first Chinese green bond (the Belt & Road ‘BRBR’ bond) launched by Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) and a case of green lending by Chinese multilateral bank Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) which finances renewable infrastructures of securitisation via local banks. The two different financial instruments, a Chinese standard fixed-income stream in the form of a green bond, and a “green” securitized loan aiming to sell sustainability to the global market, will allow to better grasp negotiations over the diversity on green financial regulations and standards in two regional contexts in which the BRI operates: Southeast Asia and Western Asia. These two regions are key areas as they also reflect the global environmental/biodiversity hotspots along the BRI corridors.
Epistemological and Interdisciplinary lens of the project
CHINGREEN will employ three analytical perspectives to explore the burgeoning field of Chinese green finance:
- Historical-Genealogical Formation: through a genealogical method involving archival research and secondary data, it will explore how the meaning of “green” and “sustainability” originate in the Chinese context and how these are now attached to financial ends.
- Standards and Value Creation: through interviews with auditors, policy makers and financial experts, it will verify how “green” parameters are established and certified in the international financial markets, and how Chinese “green financial products” are valuated and traded across different regional and national “green taxonomies.”
- Socio Spatial Impact: through participatory methods, it will explore what new “green” solutions (if any) China is promising to export along the BRI. This will test the socio-economic impact of Chinese “green” financial instruments on the ground and how these are negotiated with local actors in both the two areas of interest: Southeast Asia and Western Asia.
Outputs and resources
May 2022 - Virtual workshop "Financialization of Nature, Green Investments and Biodiversity Conservation"
Daniele Brombal, Mengmeng Cui, Giulia Dal Maso, Ali Razmkhah
- Dal Maso, G. (2020) “Risky Expertise in Chinese Financialisation: Financial Labor within the state-finance nexus.” Basingstoke, Palgrave MacMilllan. DOI 10.1007/978-981-15-6824-4
- Dal Maso, G. (2020) “The Precarious Chinese Financial Ecology of Expertise: Discontent in the Mix.” Journal of Cultural Economy doi.org/10.1080/17530350.2020.1751676
- Lai, K P Y, Lin S and Sidaway J D (2020) Financing the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI): Research agendas beyond the “debt trap” discourse, Eurasian Geography and Economics, 61 2 109-124.
- Sidaway, J D, Rowedder S C, Woon C Y, Lin W and Pholsena V (2020) Symposium: Politics and spaces of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space 38 5 795-847.
- Brombal, D., Foggin C., Gruber, S., Kolipaka, S.; Temple, N., Yun G. (2019) “The Cansiglio Declaration. Advancing a common ‘Charter of Values’ for the mutual benefit and well-being of living communities along the New Silk Roads. Marco Polo Centre for Global Europe-Asia Connections.” Doi: 10.5281/zenodo.3540679.
- Brombal, D. (2018) “Planning for a sustainable Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). An appraisal of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) environmental and social safeguards”. In K. Zhang, K. Nuotio, W. Shan, Normative Readings of the Belt and Road Initiative: Road to New Paradigms. Berlin: Springer, 129-145. Doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-78018-4.
- 14-15/04/2022 - Virtual workshop “Financialisation of Nature, Green Investment and Biodiversity Conservation; Transformative Change or Veneer for the Status Quo?”, Department of Asian and North African Studies, Ca' Foscari University Venice
Videos: panel 1, panel 2, panel 3