Stories of the Impact of China’s Belt & Road Initiative
When governments and investors shake hands on megaprojects, analyzing the costs and benefits on macro scales, it is easy to miss the smaller voices. The fisherfolks living downstream of a river choked by dams. The indigenous communities forced to move out from their ancestral homes. The young girl working in slave-like conditions. The people losing their identity and culture. One could even say that these voices are being buried. They are inconvenient to the calculations. We have seen all these happen at an alarming scale particularly with the megaprojects proposed under China’s Belt & Road Initiative (BRI), an epic global scheme financed by China to develop infrastructure in other countries and create linkages across the world.
Innovation for Change – East Asia’s interaction with rural communities and indigenous peoples over the past few years have allowed us to witness the impacts of Chinese investment in the region. While many of our governments courting Chinese investment in our countries claim the impacts are positive, and that the projects are green and clean, we have been hearing different stories. Stories of the loss of livelihood, land, and identity. Stories of the negative and tragic impacts on rural communities and the environment. Stories of peoples struggling to be heard.
Through this project, I4C-EA hopes to enable these communities to speak for themselves. ‘Stories of the Impact of China’s BRI’ features eight stories about communities who are severely impacted by projects that fall under China’s BRI or other Chinese-led development. For each story, we brought together a local community partner and an artist/storyteller. The local community partner did the research and analysis of the issues at stake for their community. After that, the artist/storyteller, with the guidance of a story curator, turned the research into a story. Featuring stories from Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam, this project aims to show the range of adverse impacts brought on by developments that do not listen to the concerns of the affected communities. In amplifying their voices, we hope they can be heard.
— August 2021
(Cover image: detail from artwork by Aldy)