Journal of Chinese Political Science

, Volume 24, Issue 2, pp 289–311 | Cite as

Social Risk Management at AIIB – Chinese or International Characteristics?

  • Bettina GransowEmail author
  • Susanna Price


The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), amongst its other Asia-based financing, provides a small but important multilateral financing alternative to bilateral flows for China’s massive new Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Focussing on AIIB’s Environmental and Social Framework (ESF) this paper explores the conceptualisation of social risk, asking whether it is predominantly shaped by China’s own experience with growth by infrastructure and related tools such as the Social Stability Risk Assessment (SSRA) or whether it owes more to social sustainability standards of pre-existing multilateral lenders. Based on key person backgrounder interviews in late 2016 and documentary review, including of AIIB’s inaugural loan approvals, the authors find more evidence of international than national characteristics, confirming AIIB’s adoption of its ESF as institutional isomorphism. This conclusion brings new perspectives to debates on the BRI’s underlying development model with particular emphasis on the potentially enhancing inclusion of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Delivering positive outcomes for people affected by AIIB projects is vital for keeping the international support that also affects the success or failure of the entire BRI.


Social risk management Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) Institutional isomorphism Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 


  1. 1.
  2. 2.
    AIIB. 2016. Environmental and Social Framework (ESF) Beijing. Accessed 3 March 2017 at
  3. 3.
    AIIB. 2017. What is AIIB. Accessed 12 January 2017 at
  4. 4.
    Beckert, Jens. 2010. Institutional isomorphism revisited: Convergence and divergence in institutional change. Sociological Theory 28 (2): 150–166.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Call for public consultation for the proposed AIIB complaints handling mechanism. 2017. Accessed 25 October, 2017 at
  6. 6.
    Callaghan, Mike, and Paul Hubbard. 2016. The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank: Multilateralism on the Silk Road. China Economic Journal 9 (2): 116–139.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Cernea, Michael M. 1997. The risks and reconstruction model for resettling displaced populations. World Development 25 (10): 1569–1588.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Cernea, Michael M. 2005. The ripple effect in social policy and its political context: Social standards in public and private sector development projects. In Privatising Development: Transnational Law, Infrastructure and Human Rights, ed. Michael B. Likosky, 65–103. Leiden: Martinus Nijhoff.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Cernea, Michael M. 2016. Foreword: Social impact assessments and safeguard policies at a fork in the road: The way forward should be upward. In Assessing the social impact of development projects. Experience in India and other Asian countries, ed. Hari Mohan Mathur, VII–XXIV. Heidelberg: Springer.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    China International Engineering Consulting Corporation (CIECC). 2002. Guideline for Investment Project Feasibility Studies. 2 vols. Beijing, China Electric Power Press: English (a) and Chinese (b).Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    DiMaggio, Paul, and Walter Powell. 1983. The iron cage revisited: Institutional isomorphism and collective rationality in organisational fields. American Sociology Review 48 (2): 147–160.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Ferguson, Scott, and Wenlong Zhu. 2015. Improving social impact assessment and participatory planning to identify and manage involuntary resettlement risks in the People’s Republic of China. In Making a difference? Social assessment policy and praxis and its emergence in China, ed. Susanna Price and Kathryn Robinson, 213–241. New York: Berghahn Books.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Fukuyama, Francis. 2016. China’s road or the Western way: Whose economic development model will prevail? South China Morning Post, January 14. Accessed 13 March, 2016 at
  14. 14.
    Ghiasy, Richard, and Jiayi Zhou. 2017. The Silk Road Economic Belt. Considering security implications and EU-China cooperation prospects. SIPRI: Stockholm.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Godehardt, Nadine. 2016. Chinas Vision einer globalen Seidenstrasse. In Ausblick 2016: Begriffe und Realitäten internationaler Politik, ed. Volker Perthes, 33–36. Berlin: Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Gransow, Bettina, ed. 2013. China’s South-South relations. Berliner China-Hefte. Chinese History and Society. Vol. 42. Berlin: Lit Verlag.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Gransow, Bettina. 2015. Chinese infrastructure investment in Latin America—an assessment of strategies, actors and risks. Journal of Chinese Political Science 20 (3): 267–287.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Gransow, Bettina, and Susanna Price, eds. 2007. Turning risks into opportunities: Social assessment manual for investment projects in China. Beijing: China International Engineering Company Research Series.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Gu, Bin. 2017. Chinese multilateralism in the AIIB. Journal of International Economic Law 20: 137–158.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Horvath, Balazs. 2016. Identifying development dividends along the Belt and Road Initiative: Complementarities and synergies between the Belt and Road Initiative and the Sustainable Development Goals. 2016 High-level Policy Forum on Global Governance. UNDP and CCIEE Scoping Paper 1,
  21. 21.
    Ikenberry, G. John and Darren Lim. 2017. China’s emerging institutional statecraft. The AIIB and the prospects for counter-hegemony. Project on International Order and Strategy at Brookings.
  22. 22.
    INDR. 2017. Comments on World Bank Draft Guidance Note for ESS 5 Land Acquisition, Restrictions on Land Use and Involuntary Resettlement from The International Network on Displacement and Resettlement w Accessed 28 December 2017.
  23. 23.
    INDR (International Network for Displacement and Resettlement). 2015. Submission letter to AIIB on Environmental and Social Framework Public Consultation. Accessed October 2015 at
  24. 24.
    Jamal, Nasir. 2017. The cost of CPEC. Dawn, 12 March. Accessed 22 September 2017 at
  25. 25.
    Jiang, Heng. 2014. Blind spots and erroneous understanding of environmental and social risks overseas. In Chinese investment overseas. Case studies on environmental and social risk, ed. Zha Daojiong, Li Fusheng, and Jiang Heng, 35–56. Beijing: Peking University Press (chin.).Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Li, Kaimeng. 2015. Social assessment in China: Progress and application in domestic development projects. In Making a difference? Social assessment policy and praxis and its emergence in China, ed. Susanna Price and Kathryn Robinson, 147–163. New York: Berghahn Books.Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Li, Hanlin, Qingong Wei, and Zhang Yan. 2010. Structural strains during the process of social change. Social Sciences in China XXXI (3): 50–68.Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Limaye, Yogita. 2017. Sri Lanka: A country trapped in debt. BBC News 26 May. Accessed 20 September 2017 at
  29. 29.
    Liu, Zezhao. 2017. Managing social risk in China local administration: an examination of SSRA initiative. International Journal of Public Administration: 1–12.
  30. 30.
    NDRC. 2012. Interim measures for social stability risk assessment of large capital asset investment projects. Document No. 2492. Beijing: NDRC (chin.).Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    NDRC. 2013. Notice on preparation outlines for social stability risk analysis chapter and assessment report in large capital asset investment projects. Beijing: NDRC (chin.).Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    NDRC. 2017. Instruction for format of project application report. Beijing: NDRC (chin.).Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    NDRC (National Development and Reform Commission). 2007. Instruction for format of project application report. Beijing: NDRC (chin.).Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    NDRC, Department of Foreign Capital and Overseas Investment, ed. 2009. 1979–2005 China’s experience with the utilization of foreign funds. Beijing: China Planning Press (chin.).Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Notice of the China Banking Regulatory Commission on issuing the green credit guidelines. 2012. Accessed at 20 October 2017 at
  36. 36.
    Park, Susan. 2014. Institutional Isomorphism and the Asian Development Bank’s Accountability Mechanism: Something old, something new; something borrowed, something blue? The Pacific Review 27 (2): 217–239.Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    Price, Susanna. 2015. Introduction. Making economic growth socially sustainable? In Making a difference? Social assessment policy and praxis and its emergence in China, ed. Susanna Price and Kathryn Robinson, 1–30. New York: Berghahn Books.Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    Tang, Jun. 2015. Risk assessment and management of social stability. Beijing: Peking University Press (chin.).Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    UNDP and CCIEE. 2017. The Belt and Road Initiative – A new means to transformative global governance towards sustainable development, UNDP Global Governance Report 2017. Accessed 20 October 2017 at
  40. 40.
    UNEP. 2016. Green Financing for Developing Countries: Needs, Concerns and Innovations. Accessed 20 December 2017.
  41. 41.
    Wan, Ming. 2016. The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. The construction of power and the struggle for the East Asian international order. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  42. 42.
    Wang, Gang. 2012. Problems and difficulties in the development of China’s green finance. Finance Research Institute, International Institute for Sustainable Development, UNEP, Enquiry, 117–129. Beijing. Accessed 2 November 2017 at
  43. 43.
    Wang, Yiwei. 2015. One road, one belt. Opportunity and challenge. Beijing: People’s Press (chin.).Google Scholar
  44. 44.
    Wang, Yiwei. 2016a. The Belt and Road Initiative. What will China offer the world in its rise. Beijing: New World Press.Google Scholar
  45. 45.
    Wang, Yongzhong. 2016b. The sustainable infrastructure finance of China Development Bank: Composition, experience and policy implications. Global economic governance initiative (GEGI), Boston University. GEGI Working Paper 05, July. Accessed 20 June, 2017.
  46. 46.
    Wang, Yuhua, and Carl Minzner. 2015. The rise of the Chinese security state. China Quarterly 222 (June): 339–359.Google Scholar
  47. 47.
    World Bank 2017 The Environmental and Social Framework (ESF). World Bank Washington DC. Accessed 3 September 2017 at
  48. 48.
    Xinhua. 2015. Xi Stresses Implementing Central Economic Policies, February 10.
  49. 49.
    Xu, Chengbin, Kaimeng Li, and Zhenwu Peng. 2014. New framework of project social unrest risk assessment oriented by problem solution. Technology Economics 33 (1): 83–91.Google Scholar
  50. 50.
    Zhou, Yixiao, and Song Ligang. 2016. Income inequality in China: Causes and policy responses. China Economic Journal 9 (2): 186–208.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Journal of Chinese Political Science/Association of Chinese Political Studies 2018
corrected publication July/2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Chinese StudiesFreie Universität BerlinBerlinGermany
  2. 2.College of Asia and the PacificAustralian National UniversityCanberraAustralia

Personalised recommendations