Abstract: As the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) expands the global footprint of Chinese firms, governments are reassessing the benefits of international investment against growing national security concerns. Yet China’s own efforts to balance economic and security objectives in its shift from capital importer to exporter receive less attention. How and why has China’s engagement with the international investment regime evolved since the beginning of the reform era? We address this question by examining bilateral investment treaties (BITs): the central component of the international investment regime. By analyzing China’s BITs and the security exceptions in 1,163 treaty texts signed between 1959 and 2018, we provide evidence of China’s transformation from cautious adopter (1982-1991) to active participant (1992-1997), committed implementer (1998-2012), and finally mature contributor (2013-present). China’s treaty practice and the BIT system continue to co-evolve as Beijing applies, accepts, and alters its rules and norms.

Dr. Wendy Leutert Bio: Wendy Leutert (吕丽云) is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Columbia-Harvard China and the World Program (2018-2019). Her research interests are in comparative and international political economy, with an emphasis on state-business relations and the reform and globalization of China’s state-owned enterprises. Her dissertation and first book project examine the impact of leadership in the public sector on economic reform and institutional change in China. At CWP, she will work on a second project titled “The International Origins of China’s National Champions,” which analyzes how Chinese state-owned enterprises have transformed from state-run factories during the Mao era to today’s partially-privatized multinational corporations. In it, she argues that China’s national champions have emerged from both domestic experimentation and more than six decades of sustained engagement with international models and actors. 

Wendy also studies the political mobility of the heads of China’s largest and most strategically important state-owned enterprises, using an original dataset of these officials’ biographical information and company attributes that she developed beginning in 2013. Other areas of her research include the politics and process of China’s early reform and opening, corporate governance in state-owned enterprises, and bilateral investment treaties.

Her work has been supported by the U.S. Department of Education through the Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad and the Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship Programs, the Brookings-Tsinghua U.S. Exchange Fellowship Program funded by the Ford Foundation, the Smith Richardson Foundation, the Chinese Scholarship Council, the Cornell East Asia Program and others. Her research is forthcoming or has been published in The China QuarterlyChina Perspectives, and Asia Policy.

Before joining CWP, Wendy was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania's Center for the Study of Contemporary China (2017-2018), a visiting researcher at Peking University (2013-2016), and a visiting researcher at the Brookings Institution and the Brookings-Tsinghua Center for Public Policy (2014- 2015). Previously, she worked for International Crisis Group in Beijing. Wendy holds a Ph.D. and a MA in government from Cornell University, a MA in international relations from Tsinghua University, and a BA with honors in both political science and philosophy from Wellesley College.

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Zachary Haver Bio: Zachary Haver is a student at George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, an analyst intern at the Center for Advanced Defense Studies (C4ADS), and an independent researcher. His scholarly research on the South China Sea territorial disputes is currently under review at a security studies journal and his writings have appeared in publications such as The National InterestLos Angeles Review of Books China ChannelAsia Times, and Global Policy. Find him on Twitter at @zacharyhaver.