Skip to main content

China's Rise and Reach: The Belt and Road City

PAST EVENT VIDEO
Roundtable
This workshop, part of the Great Powers and Urbanization Project, examines how Belt and Road cities are likely to shape patterns of globalization in the 21st century.
Event Date

About This Event

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs is convening academics and practitioners for a virtual workshop to examine the role of cities in China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Successful global powers in this century will build stable and innovative cities at home while projecting influence, and at times military strength, in urban settings abroad. As China seeks to reconceptualize its political place in the world, the BRI has the potential to significantly reshape the international order, repositioning the country at the heart of a web of global influence.

This event is the culmination of the Great Powers and Urbanization Project, a multi-year initiative to determine how global economic and demographic trends have increased the importance of cities and their role in 21st-century geopolitics.

About the Great Powers and Urbanization Project

Over the course of the early 21st century, global economic and demographic trends have increased the relative importance of urban spaces, and cities themselves have organized collectively in the face of transnational challenges. While cities and mayors have increasingly moved into the international arena, heightened geopolitical tensions have demonstrated that the nation-state, and tensions between nation-states, will still shape much of the future. Great power politics and urbanization are not separate phenomena. Peace, power, and prosperity in the 21st century will require urban expertise, as will solving global problems around climate change, migration, and equitable development.

Through convenings and policy briefings around the world, written outputs, and multimedia communications, this project serves as a platform for scholars and practitioners to engage with the intersection of geopolitics and urbanization, providing analysis and guidance for policymakers at the local, national, and international levels.

Project Partners

The Great Powers and Urbanization Project is a collaboration of global leaders in international and urban affairs. Please visit their websites for more information.

Printable PDF

Download the workshop's event concept and agenda as a printable PDF.

Brief I Speaker
Juan Du
Dean, Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design, the University of Toronto
Brief II Speaker
Nonresident Senior Fellow, Global Cities
Council expert Simon Curtis
Simon Curtis is a senior lecturer at the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom, a senior fellow on Global Cities at the Council, and an affiliated professor in International Relations at the Institut Barcelona d’Estudies Internacionales. His book, Global Cities and Global Order, won the 2018 European Consortium for Political Research Hedley Bull Prize in International Relations.
Council expert Simon Curtis
Session I Panel Speakers
Andrea Pollio
Research Fellow, African Centre for Cities
Maximillian Mayer
Junior-Professor of International Relations and Global Politics of Technology at University of Bonn
Eyck Freymann
Balliol College, University of Oxford
Nonresident Senior Fellow, Global Cities
Council expert Simon Curtis
Simon Curtis is a senior lecturer at the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom, a senior fellow on Global Cities at the Council, and an affiliated professor in International Relations at the Institut Barcelona d’Estudies Internacionales. His book, Global Cities and Global Order, won the 2018 European Consortium for Political Research Hedley Bull Prize in International Relations.
Council expert Simon Curtis
Session II Panel Speakers
Xuefei Ren
Associate Professor, Faculty of Sociology & Global Urban Studies, Michigan State University
Thomas Hussey
Director, Urban Design and Planning, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
Julie Miao
Senior Lecturer in Property and Economic Development in the Melbourne School of Design, Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning
Xiangming Chen
Distinguished Professor of Global Urban Studies and Sociology, Trinity College
Timothy Summers
Assistant Professor in the Centre for China Studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong
A logo of the Diplomatic Courier on a red background
The Great Powers and Urbanization Channel The Diplomatic Courier has published outputs from the project on this channel.

Geopolitics and Urbanisation in the Asia-Pacific

In June 2021, the Connected Cities Lab hosted two sessions titled Geopolitics and Urbanisation in the Asia-Pacific. Full videos of these events, recorded by the Connected Cities Lab at the University of Melbourne, are available below.

Screenshot of session 1
Play Video

Session 1

Screenshot from Session 2
Play Video

Session 2

Previous Workshops

Learn more about the project through recaps of previous workshops.

This workshop, hosted by the University of Melbourne's Connected Cities Lab, took place on June 2-3, 2021. Participants focused primarily on cities across the Asia-Pacific and aimed to paint a picture of the geopolitical complexity of a region.

This seminar focused on cities across Africa to explore how different urbanization challenges and opportunities take on particular inflections due to the relationships between local, regional, and international scales on the continent. The workshop, on May 7, 2021, reflected on the tremendous need and opportunity for cities to engage in geopolitical processes, along with a series of challenges that need to be both acknowledged and addressed. Watch the full event, hosted by African Centre for Cities.

On March 16, 2021, the Argentine Council for International Relations (CARI), the government of the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires, the Chicago Council, and the Diplomatic Courier hosted a third workshop, the webinar on the "Cities and Great Powers" with a particular focus on Latin America. Read the full report from this workshop.

Cities have been advocating for a seat at the global table for decades. Although they are recognized as part of the international system, their capacity to influence is still limited to a consultative role and largely symbolic. Global and regional governance structures have been designed by and for nation-states and they leave little room for the involvement of other stakeholders, including local governments. Within the framework of the GPUP, CIDOB’s Global Cities Programme brought together GPUP partner institutions, city diplomacy practitioners, and other experts for a digital seminar on October 26-27, 2020, to discuss the changing role of cities in global and regional governance. Read the report associated with the workshop.

The first GPUP workshop was hosted at Perry World House, the University of Pennsylvania’s global affairs hub, on September 5-6, 2019 in Philadelphia. This workshop explored the nexus of urbanization and great powers, past and present, as well as national urban policies and national security strategies.

Globalization has produced tensions between economic space and governance space, leading to new forms of global politics and relationship building, along with questions around authorities and sovereignty. How do we situate these tensions amid the longer histories of both capitalism and geopolitical competition?

The workshop also focused on how cities are engaging international law and legal institutions, identifying the potential implications of cities’ expanded role in global affairs in creating and changing international legal norms. Finally, it examined how cities are shaping, and being shaped by, great power politics. Read the full workshop report.

Featured Commentary

Pretoria, South Africa
Global Cities
Reuters
The Geopolitical Implications of Fractured Fiscal Authority
BLOG Global Insight by Liza Rose Cirolia
Liza Rose Cirolia shares geopolitical implications on African urban areas and city governments.