Measuring Commercial Influence

Project Topics
Economic Development
Foreign Influence
Dates Covered
2020 - Present


“Measuring Commercial Influence” is a three-year project to develop an empirically validated political economy model of political influence. Funded by the DoD’s Minerva Research Initiative (MRI), the project’s empirical setting is Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) investments, particularly in Southeast Asia. In recent years, China has increased its investments across the developing world, leading U.S. policy-makers to express concern over Beijing’s growing “influence” in recipient countries. Yet the concept of influence is under-theorized; we lack a robust understanding of the political-economic channels through which foreign investments yield influence and do not have rigorous measures of whether China is gaining such influence. The project is built on three sub-projects: (A) Theory development with a focus on building robust political economy models that incorporate realistic models of project finance; (B) Data gathering and analysis focusing on high-resolution measurement of the responses to BRI investment by politicians and citizens; and (C) Elite interviews with politicians and government decision-makers in BRI-recipient nations.

Minerva Research Initiative