Published online: October 2023
Abstract: Although the Belt and Road Initiative presents growth opportunities for less developed regions, it also raises concerns about negative environmental impacts and sustainability. Despite proliferating academic interest in China’s efforts to green the Belt and Road Initiative, the engagement of non-governmental organisations in policymaking has been understudied. This research marks the first empirical effort to examine the interactions between environmental non-governmental organisations and the Chinese government under the banner of a green Belt and Road Initiative. It finds that non-governmental organisations have employed four strategies to engage with the state-led initiative – civil diplomacy, development partnership, service provision, and outside reform – and that development partners and service providers have been more active than the others in shaping China’s Belt and Road Initiative-related environmental policies. This article elucidates civil society actors’ opportunities and constraints in greening the Belt and Road Initiative and non-governmental organisations–government dynamics in a non-democratic context.