Gregor Schwerhoff, Ottmar Edenhofer, Marc Fleurbaey | Journal of Economic Surveys
This article examines the shifting dimensions of Chinese infrastructural aid in Nepal, focusing on the politics of anticipation and enunciation that shape Nepali perceptions of Chinese-facilitated development and negotiations concerning Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Drawing from ethnographic research focused on sites of ongoing and planned infrastructure development in Nepal’s two northern districts of Rasuwa and Gorkha, we analyze the uncertain remaking of these areas into trans-Himalayan power corridors. Our examination reveals the gamut of transitions, opportunities, reorientations, and expectations that the BRI and other forms of Chinese investment evoke in Nepal, showing how politics articulate infrastructures, and vice versa. After reviewing the historical context of Nepal-China relations, our empirical analysis begins in late 2014 when China became the single largest source of foreign direct investment in Nepal, continues through several rounds of negotiations about the BRI and other forms of Chinese infrastructural investment and aid, and concludes with a review of significant Nepal-China agreements at the Second Belt and Road Forum, held in Beijing in April 2019. Tacking between remote construction sites, scenes of diplomatic debate, borderland villages, investment summits, and speculative media coverage, we demonstrate how the Belt and Road Initiative is differently enacted and co-constructed by a variety of Nepali and Chinese actors who interpret, reimagine, and rhetorically appropriate the BRI within their own narrations of future possibility.