Who Pursues Prestige Projects, and Why? Evidence from Chinese Development Finance
Why do some governments pursue grandiose development projects, often in countries with urgent needs for more basic development resources? I argue that governments of small or poor countries often have strong domestic political incentives to seek and associate themselves with externally-financed “prestige projects.” In terms of supply, donor governments finance prestige projects to states that increase their support for donors’ diplomatic interests. This is especially attractive for emerging and other donor governments facing perceived international prestige deficits. After identifying a set of Chinese government-financed prestige projects using a new dataset, I show that these projects are concentrated in the world’s poorest and smallest countries, and that their implementation may be associated with higher public support for recipient governments. I also find that China’s government overwhelmingly supplies prestige projects to states that increase their support for Chinese diplomatic objectives. Accompanying tests find no such relationships for concessional foreign aid or commercially-oriented development projects financed by China’s government.

Austin Strange is a PhD candidate in the Department of Government at Harvard University. He is also a fellow with the World Economic Forum Global Future Council on Development Finance and a graduate student associate at the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies. His current research investigates how domestic politics shape the foreign economic policies of non-democratic governments, with a focus on historical and contemporary China. With colleagues, he is currently writing a book on Chinese overseas development finance for Cambridge University Press. His other work has appeared in International Studies Quarterly, the Journal of Conflict Resolution, PLOS ONE, and other peer-reviewed journals. Austin holds an MSS from Zhejiang University and a BA from the College of William & Mary.

Speaker(s) Mr Austin Strange
PhD candidate, Harvard University
Date 3 Feb 2020 (Monday)
Time 3:00 pm
Venue Room 3301 (via lifts 17-18), Academic Building, HKUST
Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
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