The Chinese Belt and Road Initiative and European Attitudes towards Human Rights

Research question/goal: 

Democracies constantly need to weigh up how and to what extent human rights conditions in other countries should shape their interactions with these foreign partners. Large-scale investments by autocratic states in democracies can increase economic dependence, which in turn might constrain the desire and ability of democratic leaders to push autocrats on their human rights records. Salient projects might also shape citizens’ attitudes towards the autocratic state. We investigate if and to what extent China is able to shift preferences among European voters with its Belt and Road Initiative, addressing two related questions: First, do European voters in areas where China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is of great salience have different attitudes towards China? Second, do European voters in regions where the BRI is salient have different attitudes towards human rights? To answer these questions, we analyse the impact of the BRI on attitudes by EU citizens (1) towards China, (2) towards potential trade-offs between human rights concerns and economic preferences and (3) towards the salience of human rights in general. Greater economic interactions with an autocratic regime might shape preferences towards human rights due to economic considerations, because of normative concerns, or because of a combination of both. We investigate these questions with survey experiments in European regions that are part of the BRI and compare them to similar regions without these projects.

Fact sheet

2022 to 2026
Data Sources: 
Survey experiments
Geographic Space: 
Italy and France