The geopolitics of South–South infrastructure development: Chinese-financed energy projects in the global South

Giles Mohan, May Tan-Mullins

    Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review

    44 Citations (Scopus)


    Debates around infrastructure tend to focus on the global North, yet in the global South demand for infrastructure is huge and we see new and emergent actors engaged in finance and construction; China being pre-eminent among them. China’s interests in the global South have grown apace over the past decade, especially in terms of accessing resources and securing infrastructure deals. The role of Chinese banks and State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) in financing and building the projects reveals a blurring between geopolitical and commercial interests and processes. The article situates China’s entry into the global South as part of a geopolitics that is simultaneously geoeconomic and interrogates these issues through case studies of Chinese-backed projects in Ghana and Cambodia. These projects are spatially and politically complex, with China adopting a range of financing models – often including an element of resource swaps – in which bank finance is critical and marks the Chinese as different from Western financiers. These international deals are secured at the political elite level and so bypass established forms of national governance and accountability in the recipient countries, while the turnkey construction projects remain locally enclaved. The cases also show that wider developmental benefits are limited, with ‘ordinary’ citizens – especially those in the rural areas – gaining relatively little from these major energy projects and the benefits accruing to urban-based elites.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1368-1385
    Number of pages18
    JournalUrban Studies
    Issue number7
    Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2019


    • China
    • development
    • economic development
    • finance/financialisation
    • infrastructure
    • politics
    • urbanisation and developing countries

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
    • Urban Studies


    Dive into the research topics of 'The geopolitics of South–South infrastructure development: Chinese-financed energy projects in the global South'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this