GEOGRAPHICAL RESEARCH ›› 2020, Vol. 39 ›› Issue (12): 2669-2684.doi: 10.11821/dlyj020200298

• Study of the Belt and Road Initiative Construction • Previous Articles     Next Articles

The spatio-temporal evolutionary process and mechanism of China's overseas contracted projects in Africa

LIU Zhigao1,2,3(), XUE Jiashun1,4, WANG Tao1,4, SONG Tao1,3()   

  1. 1. Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
    2. College of Resources and Environment, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
    3. Key Laboratory of Regional Sustainable Development Modeling, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
    4. University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
  • Received:2020-04-09 Revised:2020-09-23 Online:2020-12-20 Published:2021-02-20
  • Contact: SONG Tao;


China's foreign contracted projects (FCPs) are generally considered as part of both Sino-Africa cooperation and China's economic diplomacy. With the rapid growth of China's FCPs, the increasing attention has been paid in recent years to their spatial patterns, especially in Asian and African countries. However, to date, there have been few studies on the spatial and temporal evolution of China's FCPs in Africa from the medium- and long-term perspectives. This article tries to fill this gap and examine the spatio-temporal evolutionary process and mechanism of China's overseas contracted projects in Africa. On the basis of analysis of socio-economic development and evolution of foreign policy since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, we firstly summarize the basic features of the evolution of China's FCPs in Africa from 1950 to 2017. Secondly, we identify main factors affecting the spatial distribution of China's FCPs in Africa and their temporal characteristics by analyzing the transnational panel data collected from 2001 to 2017. It is found that China's FCPs in Africa have experienced four historical stages. In the initial stage from 1956 to 1981, China's FCPs were conducted mainly in the form of foreign aid, which laid the foundation for further development. Between 1982 and 1999, China's FCPs experienced the market-oriented reform, and clustered in African coastal areas. After the rapid growth during 2000-2008, China's FCPs in Africa slowed down, and new project cooperation and financing modes were developed since 2009. From the spatial perspective, China's FCPs tend to concentrate in host countries with large domestic market, high openness, poor infrastructure, rich natural resources, relatively poor technical conditions, and few external debts, especially those countries or regions that keep sound bilateral relationships with China. In addition, the large African destination countries of China's FCPs tend to have higher economic risk to some extent for economic or other considerations. From the temporal perspective, the short-term macroeconomic situations are found to show greater significance while the importance of natural resources and political risks are weakening. Meanwhile, China's foreign investment policies have much more importance, and with the evolving investment institutions in host countries, China's FCPs in Africa still keep a high-risk tendency for more profits. Political and cultural bilateral relations played an important role in China's FCPs in Africa. The study enriches the research on the spatio-temporal variation of the factors influencing the China's FCPs in Africa. Additionally, it would be useful in formulating high-quality development policies on infrastructure construction in Africa in the context of the Belt and Road Initiative.

Key words: foreign contracted projects, spatio-temporal differentiation, influence mechanism, China, Africa