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Re-orienting development: The dynamics and effects of Chinese infrastructure investment in Europe (REDEFINE)

About the project

REDEFINE will examine what China’s rise means for how we understand global development and, specifically, Europe’s place in it.  After 15 years of ‘going out’ to access raw materials and new markets, often in the global South, China began making assertive moves into the infrastructure sectors of developed economies, which were boosted by the Belt and Road Initiative. 

At the same time, many European economies stagnated following the 2008 financial crisis with governments cutting infrastructure investment and seeking alternative sources of finance. 

The 2013-16 period saw China investing heavily across Europe and while investment has fallen off it is likely to remain important especially as a new EU-China Investment Agreement has been signed in December 2020. 

While China views Europe as fertile ground for infrastructure investment, many European firms and governments are ill-equipped to deal with these political and economic changes.

REDEFINE is structured around 3 Work Streams (WS):

  • WS 1: Driving - Understanding the motives for China’s move westwards & Europe’s infrastructure needs
  • WS 2: Gathering - Understanding the multi-scaled modalities of infrastructure projects
  • WS 3: Linking - Understanding the outcomes of & reactions to Chinese investment

REDEFINE will take a disaggregated approach to unpack project-by-project effects. Through comparative case studies in the UK, Germany, Greece and Hungary REDEFINE will produce fine-grained analysis to understand the rationales for Chinese investment in Europe, the geopolitical dynamics surrounding these financing streams, the structuring of projects, and how they interface with national and local development policy. 

By better understanding how investment deals operate, REDEFINE will connect Chinese and European government and corporate actors in order to influence their strategies and practices.


The REDEFINE project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (Grant agreement No. 885475) and runs from November 2020 to November 2025.


Get in touch

Contact the team at

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Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
The Open University
Milton Keynes