Rising Powers and Interdependent Futures

large dam

China Goes Global: A comparative study of Chinese hydropower dams in Africa and Asia

Project details

Discipline: Area and Development Studies
Funded Period: 15 October 2012 – 14 April 2016
Rising powers: China
Additional countries: Cambodia, Ghana, Malaysia, Nigeria


China’s rapid economic growth has created a series of pressures which has forced the country to engage more closely with a number of low and middle income countries (LMICs). China’s growth has depleted scarce domestic natural resources and so part of its ‘Going Out Strategy’ encourages overseas investment to access natural resources such as energy and minerals. Access to overseas natural resources, new markets and technological advances, have made China the world’s largest player in large hydropower dam projects, usually backed by state finance and state-owned enterprises.

The aim of this project is to provide the first systematic and comparative analysis of the environmental, social, economic and political impacts of Chinese hydropower dam projects in low and middle income countries, that will inform corporate behaviour of hydropower firms in China and the UK and shape emerging national and international policy responses.

Four themes will be thoroughly investigated:

  • Organization and motives of Chinese hydropower actors;
  • Local and national Impacts;
  • Governance implications;
  • UK and OECD interests.

The project will apply a multi-sited, comparative case study approach and will involve detailed empirical research in Ghana, Nigeria, Cambodia and Malaysia, which represent different facets of China’s hydropower in the global South.

Project team

Principal Investigator

Dr. Frauke Urban, School of Oriental & African Studies.

Other members of the core team

Professor Laurence Smith, Co-Investigator
Professor Giles Mohan, Co-Investigator
Dr May Tan-Mullins, Co-Investigator
Dr. Giuseppina Siciliano (Research Fellow/Project Manager)

Further details

For further details about the project please contact Frauke Urban (f.urban@soas.ac.uk) or Giuseppina Siciliano (gs45@soas.ac.uk).

The project team comprises 10 institutes from the UK, China and each of the 4 countries involved in the case studies: SOAS, the Open University, University of Nottingham Ningbo in China, the University of Ghana, Cambodia Development Resource Institute CDRI, the Nigerian Institute of Social and Economic Research, Nottingham University in Malaysia, Universiti Malaysia Sabah, Tsinghua University in Beijing and International Rivers.


Policy briefs

China Goes Global, October 2014, International Innovation, issue 159: 82-83.

Academic publications

Principal investigator Dr Frauke Urban introduces the project 'China Goes Global: A comparative study of Chinese hydropower dams in Africa and Asia'.

China goes global: lessons from Africa and Asia. A video produced by the project 'China Goes Global: A comparative study of Chinese hydropower dams in Africa and Asia.