The ‘soft infrastructure’ of the Belt and Road Initiative: imaginaries, affinities and subjectivities in Chinese transnational education

Yi'En Cheng, Sin Yee Koh

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12 Citations (Scopus)


Drawing upon qualitative research conducted at Xiamen University (XMU) and its overseas campus, Xiamen University Malaysia (XMUM), this article provides an analysis of transnational education as a component of the soft infrastructure of China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). We examine XMUM within wider geopolitical and cultural diplomacy in Asia and as a transnational site in/through which new regional imaginaries, affinities and subjectivities are produced and contested. We highlight the role of historical and cultural affinity—as well as its omission/disruption—in giving shape to XMUM, the limited extent to which mainland Chinese students perform their role as cultural ambassadors, and the multiple imaginative post-study geographies of international and local students that simultaneously centre and decentre China. In doing so, we contend that students' narratives/practices reinforce but also present alternatives to the imaginaries, affinities and subjectivities that Chinese transnational education institutes such as XMU and XMUM seek to produce through the vehicle of the BRI.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)250-269
Number of pages20
JournalSingapore Journal of Tropical Geography
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2022


  • transnational education
  • Belt and Road Initiative
  • soft infrastructure
  • university students
  • China
  • Malaysia

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