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The uneven geographies of China’s Belt and Road Initiative: Authoritarian neoliberal urbanism, social inequality and grassroots resistance in London, Athens and Colombo

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Apostolopoulou, Evangelia 


In this presentation, I explore the links between infrastructure-led development, urban transformation and social inequality in China’s Belt and Road Initiative. I theorise the BRI as an exemplar of infrastructure-led development that primarily acts as a spatial fix to the overaccumulation problems of Chinese capitalism while also benefiting corporate elites beyond China. By drawing on the experiences of London, Piraeus, and Colombo where BRI-related projects are being currently materialised, I aim at shedding light to the way the initiative may transform the geographies of everyday lives, remaking places, ecosystems and livelihoods. I argue that the BRI is an emblematic manifestation of the emergence of a tight interrelationship between infrastructure-led development and authoritarian neoliberal urbanism that despite its variegated expressions across different contexts is deepening social, spatial and environmental inequality in cities across the Global South and North. By shedding light on social contestation against BRI projects in London, Piraeus and Sri Lanka, I conclude that grassroots resistance linking the right to the city to the right to nature is the only way to challenge uneven socio-spatial change and open pathways to radically different urban futures.



gentrification, inequality, neoliberal urbanism, New Silk Road, postcolonial geographies, socio-spatial change, spatial fix

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Third Biennial Conference of the Political Ecology Network, Contested Natures: Power, Politics, Prefiguration,

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Prince of Wales Global Sustainability Fellowship in Infrastructure and Sustainable Communities, supported by The Equal Opportunities Foundation. Code ENAG/015; award number G105730.