top of page

Learn More about Global China Local Cultures

The “Global China, Local Cultures” research team at the Hong Kong Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences is carrying out two major research projects funded by the Hong Kong Research Grants Council and directed by Prof. David A. Palmer: The RGC Fellowship “Chinese Modernity and Soft Power on the Belt and Road” (2021-2026) and the Collaborative Research Fund Grant “Infrastructures of Faith: Religious Mobilities on the Belt and Road” (2019-2023). The work in both of these grants has focused on the cultural dimensions of the interactions between local societies and Chinese actors and projects in countries of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).


The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), involving investments of over $1 trillion in over 100 countries in Eurasia, Africa and Latin America, is literally redrawing the map of interconnectivity in much of the world, situating China at the centre of an expanding web of ports, railroads, highways, bridges, economic zones and trading hubs. It has been described as the largest infrastructure and investment project in history. Until now, most discussion and research on the BRI has focused on physical infrastructures, financial investments and commerce. This discourse ignores that the new routes not only facilitate the flow of goods and funds, but also of people, ideas and culture. Indeed, the BRI strategy includes exporting culture and influence, in the form of Chinese “soft power”.

Our work assesses the nature and dynamics of localized cultural interactions on the BRI, by using ethnographic methods to identify how, in local contexts, “Chinese modernity” entangles with local socio-political conditions, networks, values and beliefs. Our ethnographic and qualitative methodology shifts the focus of research away from the abstract and general tenor of most studies on Chinese soft power, to the lived experience, perceptions and transformations of people in specific local communities. Case studies will investigate the dynamic interaction between Chinese actors and local cultures and societies, and the new types of social networks and cultural forms that emerge out of the interaction between local socio-cultural realities and Chinese influences. The project will generate expertise on China-local cultural dynamics in BRI nations, that can be translated into policy and operational recommendations for governmental, educational and community organizations.

bottom of page