Upcoming Events


    Past Events

    January 31, 2019 | 12:30 PM

    China's Belt and Road Initiative: Navigating Competing Interests in Chinese Geo-economic Policy

    Belt Road Initiative Flyer

    The International Law Society organized a discussion on China's Belt and Road Initiative and challenges in implementing the policy. Speakers included Austin Pierce from Vinson & Elkins Houston office, Dr. Jackson Ewing from the Nicholas Institute of Environmental Policy and Sanford School of Public Policy, and Dr. Shitong Qiao from Duke Law. The discussion was moderated by Prof. Paul Haagen.  The event was sponsored by the International Law Society, Environmental Law Society, and Law & Economics Society. 

    January 14, 2019 


    A Conversation with Charles Stevens, co-founder of The New Silk Road Project

    Visit to ADB in Bishkek.jpg

    Charles Stevens is an undergraduate student studying history at the University of Saint Andrews. He has a particular interest in the philosophical underpinnings and trade aspects of China's Belt and Road Initiative, as well as China's power engagement with Central Asia.

    After observing some of the Chinese led infrastructure developments when cycling across Asia in 2016, he created The New Silk Road Project; an expedition, supported by Jeep and the University of Saint Andrews, to document the land-based component of the BRI by compiling interviews from leading actors and academics across Europe and Asia. He is working on building an interactive map to address the deficit in cross-regional academic communication on the topic and enjoys riting for online and print-based publications including US-China Focus, Centre for Strategic and International Studies and Geographical.

    Searching for Answers Along China’s Belt and Road


    China’s touts its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) as the largest international infrastructure project in human history. Drawing comparisons to post-WWII reconstruction in Europe, the BRI seeks to connect China to countries near and far over land and sea and is becoming a signature foreign policy enterprise for Chinese President Xi Jinping. Understanding this modern initiative requires considering China’s historical, cultural, and economic place in its traditional neighborhood and beyond.

    This session contextualized the BRI as a revitalization of China’s longstanding efforts to shape its role regionally and globally. It showed the ways in which the BRI seeks to extend China’s cultural influence and soft power, and demonstrate how the BRI reveals China’s growing influence within the global economy. Finally, the session explored the BRI from the outside in, offering questions about its socioeconomic and environmental implications for recipient countries.


    Belt and Road Graduate Student Network Meeting

    The D-SIGN Belt and Road Graduate Student Network organized a lunch event on Friday, October 26 in the Environment Hall Gallery to report on recent workshops held at Duke Kunshan University and to talk about upcoming BRI related work and events at Duke.  Indermit Gill, director of Duke Center for International Development presented his work on BRI followed by Q&A. Later, participants reflected on the BRI workshops at DKU and also discussed other possible events that the Riding the Belt and Road graduate network could participate in.

    October 13-17, 2018

    Duke-DKU International Symposium  on Environmentally and Socially Responsible Outbound Foreign Direct Investment


    This article was published in Duke Today on October 24, 2018.

    The groups from Duke and Duke Kunshan universities co-hosted a five-day symposium to share knowledge and build connections that will help answer an important question: How can we collaborate to meet the sustainability challenges created when investment takes place across national boundaries?

    The events on Duke Kunshan’s campus addressed how to better understand and plan for China’s vast increase in infrastructure investment abroad, especially for projects that are part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The BRI is China’s evolving policy to foster “New Silk Road” trade with a large group of countries through trillions of dollars of investments in construction, including ports, roads, railways and power plants. Such projects can foster economic growth and bring benefits to countries involved in the initiative, but can also cause serious environmental and social harms, depending on how they are done. 

    The events were co-hosted by the Environmental Research Center at Duke Kunshan, the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, and the Duke Center for International & Global Studies, both at Duke, and were co-sponsored by the Duke Kunshan University Center for the Study of Contemporary China and the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) Shanghai Representative Office. Details.

    Biodiversity and Infrastructure Mapping Workshop

    To increase the effectiveness of biodiversity, ecosystem services and mitigation mapping for influencing the planning of infrastructure in Asia and Africa, Duke University and Duke Kunshan University jointly hosted the Belt and Road Biodiversity Mapping Workshop. The workshop aimed to align the efforts and data of concerned institutions, reduce duplication of work, and standardize methods for the mapping of biodiversity and ecosystem services in relation to the BRI. This workshop brought experts together in order to explore the most effective ways to combine biodiversity, ecosystem services, and infrastructure project data. Workshop attendees also planned for effective ways to get resulting biodiversity information into the hands of the proper decision makers. This workshop represented one in a series of workshops which was held at DKU on related, but distinct elements of the Duke Green Belt and Road Initiative.

    This three-day workshop included government officials from China and key US and China think tanks and NGO representatives who focus on using the resulting mapping data. The workshop also provided opportunities for environmental students from the MEM and iMEP programs to engage in the biodiversity mapping processes.

    Project Leads: Stuart Pimm, Ph.D., sends e-mail); Elizabeth Losos, Ph.D. sends e-mail); Lydia Olander, Ph.D. sends e-mail); Sara Mason sends e-mail); Binbin Li, Ph.D., sends e-mail); Kathinka Furst, Ph.D., sends e-mail); Moon Joon Kim, Ph.D., sends e-mail).

    September 7, 2018


    BRI chosen.png

    The kick-off event for the Riding the Belt and Road network was organized on September 7, 2018. The goal of the event was to update each other on the latest research related to BRI, to avoid reinventing the wheels, and to be more connected with Duke Kunshan Campus and think tanks outside of Duke.

    The presenters included Jackson Ewing, Lydia Olander, Elizabeth Losos, Seth Morgan, Sara Mason, Erik Myxter-lino, Xiaolan You, Zainab Qazi and Yating Li. Indermit Gill from Duke Center for International Development briefly summarized four papers related to BRI, which will be featured in the next event.

    A wide range of perspectives related to BRI was covered

    • Roads and power plants
    • Environmental impact, ecosystem impact, economic importance
    • Framework to understand what lead to greener projects
    • Understanding BRI strategies with broader context of climate change
    • Using machine learning techniques to identify transmission line

    The event was supported by D-SIGN with more than 60 students and faculty members from various departments participating.

    May 26-28, 2018

    Shanghai Forum

    Post-conference photo at Shanghai Forum.jpg

    Elizabeth Losos from the Nicholas Institute at Duke University participated in the session ‘Global Green Governance: Environmental Challenges and Opportunities of B&R Initiative’ at the Shanghai Forum 2018 Conference. The title of her talk was ‘Constructing a Sustainable Belt and Road: Identifying and Mitigating the Negative Environmental Impacts of BRI.The conference which was held in Shanghai from May 26 – 28, 2018 attracted around 400 guests from academic, government and business sectors.

    Shanghai Forum Agenda


    February 26, 2018

    round-table discussion on Belt and Road


    Jackson Ewing, a senior fellow at Duke University's Nicholas Institute of Environmental Policy Solutions and an adjunct associate professor at the Sanford School of Public Policy led a round-table discussion on Belt and Road following the kick-off event of Energy Access Project at Duke in DC. He works closely with the Duke Kunshan University Environmental Research Center and International Masters of Environmental Policy programs to build policy research collaboration across Duke platforms in the United States and China. The roundtable discussion highlighted the intersection of energy and environmental issues, and the importance of getting a better understanding of Chinese investment in the energy sector. 

    The three focus groups of the round-table were as follows.

    1. Reconnecting Asia Data, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) led by Jonathan E. Hillman, Fellow and Director of the Reconnecting Asia Project
    2. Green Products, led by Tao Hu, Director, China Program, World Wildlife Fund
    3. Coal Power Plants, led by Jennifer L. Turner, Director of China Environment Forum, Wilson Center

    February 22, 2018

    One Belt, Many Questions

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    The Duke Green Belt and Road Initiative hosted a webinar presentation by Jonathan Hillman, director of the Reconnecting Asia Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). Jonathan’s lecture described CSIS’s work related to the Belt and Road and he presented the Reconnecting Asia database, which hosts information on infrastructure projects across Eurasia. The lecture focused on the Belt and Road’s overland routes—their economic implications, challenges, and questions for future research. 10 students and faculty members joined this webinar which was followed by Q and A session.


    January 19, 2018 | 10:00 am

    Constructing Africa’s Future: The Environmental and Social Implications of Chinese-Financed Infrastructure in Africa 

    Leading academics, journalists, policymakers, and NGO experts discussed the environmental and social implications of Chinese-financed infrastructure in Africa on Friday, January 19 on the Duke University campus. The workshop assessed how Duke/DKU and partner institutions could contribute to infrastructure planning in Africa so as to optimize its impact on the environment and global health.

    Details of the Event
    Summary Report of the Event


    • Howard French, (virtual attendance) School of Journalism, Columbia University
      From Going Out to One Belt One Road – Understanding China’s Africa Policies in a Global Perspective
    • Michelle Lee, Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University
      Green and Blue conservation agendas alongside Chinese development in Gabon
    • April Raphiou, International Communications Consultant
      The framing of Chinese engagement in Kenya and Nigeria as portrayed through local media
    • Jackson Ewing, Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions
      The Inconsistency of China’s Environmental Impacts in Africa
    • Tao Hu, WWF China Program 
      Greening Infrastructure along the Belt and Road
    • Jingjing Zhang, Environmental Law Institute, Georgetown University
      Chinese overseas investment: the environmental and social impact and legal accountability

    The event was sponsored by the Duke Green Belt and Road Initiative, an initiative of the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions and Duke Kunshan University that draws together colleagues from across Duke to address the environmental and social impacts of China’s new Silk Road infrastructure investments in Asia and Africa. The event was funded by the Duke Africa Initiative and the Nicholas Institute.

    November 30, 2017 | 5:30 pm

    China’s Global Plans For Infrastructure Expansion: Why Is Everybody So Worried?

    William Laurance.jpg

    William Laurance, a distinguished research professor at James Cook University in Cairns, Australia, presented "China’s Global Plans For Infrastructure Expansion: Why Is Everybody So Worried?" at 5 p.m. Thursday, November 30, in Duke University's Environment Hall Room 1111. The presentation, which Laurance delivered remotely, examined the impact of Chinese Belt and Road infrastructure development on biodiversity in tropical Asia and Africa. This event was open to the public and refreshments were served.

    This lecture was part of the Duke-DKU Green Belt and Road Webinar Series, which presents topics focused on the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative. 

    October 19, 2017

    Webinar with Rose Niu

    Chief Conservation Officer, The Paulson Institute
    Observation and inference from participation in building an ecological civilization in China

    September 12, 2017 | 6:00 pm

    Economics of Environmental Data Manipulation


    Junjie Zhang, director of the iMEP Program and Environmental Research Center at Duke Kunshan University, presented “Economics of Environmental Data Manipulation,” from 6 to 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, September 12.

    Environmental regulation is often compromised in China when government officials are facing competing political targets other than environmental quality. Zhang discussed his research to not only refine the method of data manipulation but also provide a political economy interpretation of data falsification behavior in China, using a unique data set that combines reported air quality information with resume details of city party secretaries and mayors.

    This talk was part of the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions and the University Program in Environmental Policy seminar series featuring leading experts discussing a variety of pressing environmentally focused topics.