One Belt, Many Roads: Investigating China’s Foreign Investment and Land-use Impacts in Southeast Asia

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Xuewei Wang, Angel Hsu, Evan Johnson, Diego Manya, Julia Cardwell


Foreign direct investment (FDI) can reshape landscapes in developing countries, but its impact remains unclear. This study examines how China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) FDI impacts land-cover and land-use change in Southeast Asia, a key trade partner receiving significant Chinese infrastructure investments. Focusing on areas with BRI investments from 2008 to 2018, we utilize satellite data to analyze land-use changes across Southeast Asia (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam), particularly urban growth and deforestation. We find that districts that received BRI investment experienced nearly a 5% greater rate of deforestation than the regional average, with a 001% and 0.007% in tree cover associated with a 1% increase in Chinese investment. Districts receiving investments also showed greater increases in cropland and grasslands. While statistical tests indicate the immediate land-cover changes are modest, our findings suggest potential future environmental consequences in Southeast Asia, particularly with ongoing economic development.



Environmental Indicators and Impact Assessment, Environmental Sciences, Environmental Studies, Natural Resource Economics


Southeast Asia, land-cover change, foreign direct investment, Belt and Road Initiative, Southeast Asia


Published: 2024-06-22 08:07

Last Updated: 2024-06-22 15:07


CC-BY Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International