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About the Project

The role of infrastructure development in geopolitical competition is likely to be at the core of new forms of strategic contestation between great powers over the shape of the international order across the coming decade. The Cities, Infrastructure, and Geopolitics project will examine the ways in which large-scale infrastructure and urbanization are becoming core to evolving approaches to strategic competition among powerful states today, focusing primarily on initiatives from China, the United States, and the European Union, which are all seeking to influence connectivity and urban spaces across and beyond their own borders.

This is a rare historical moment; one where the rise of a great power coincides with a wave of global infrastructure building and city shaping. The patterns laid down today will shape the lives of billions of people over the coming decades, if not centuries. Because the costs involved in the founding or reshaping of cities, and in redesigning and building major infrastructure projects that connect them, are so great, they tend to lock in particular ways of life for generations. This moment connects geopolitical power, economic relations, ideological visions, and material forces in ways that may configure a historical epoch.

The Project is organized around four pillars: Connectivity and Corridors; Urban Forms; Digital Architectures; and Energy Infrastructures. Each of these pillars considers and maps the leading international infrastructure efforts: China’s Belt and Road Initiative; G7 Build Back Better World; new modes of US finance and investment; and the EU Global Gateway. This approach allows for both comparative analysis and regional expertise.


Nairobi infrastructure construction.
Infrastructure: The EU's Global Gateway Put to the Test Through infrastructure investments, economic integration, and green and digital transitions, the EU's Global Gateway will shape Africa and its cities as new hubs for development.
Solar panels in Africa
The Role of China in Rescaling Service Delivery in Urban Africa The energy transition in African cities marks a key site of geopolitical competition, as China's control of the solar market reshapes urban service delivery.
A truck at Darwin Port
On and Off the BRI Map: A Story of the Darwin Port, Australia The Port of Darwin shows the potential of China's Belt and Road Initiative as social infrastructure, but also the challenges in materializing its benefits.
Nairobi Phone Stall
Cities as Geopolitical Testbeds of Digital Infrastructure African cities have emerged as proxy arenas where different modes of international relations are given effect through the development of infrastructure.
Storage containers at CEFT
Eurasia's Freight Infrastructure vs. Russia's War in Ukraine Even as the war in Ukraine creates risks, the extensive city-based CEFT network remains resilient from its continued expansion, improved infrastructure, and operational adaptability.
About the Authors
Simon Curtis
Nonresident Senior Fellow, Global Cities
Council expert Simon Curtis
Simon Curtis is a senior lecturer at the University of Surrey in the United Kingdom, a senior fellow on Global Cities at the Council, and an affiliated professor in International Relations at the Institut Barcelona d’Estudies Internacionales. His book, Global Cities and Global Order, won the 2018 European Consortium for Political Research Hedley Bull Prize in International Relations.
Council expert Simon Curtis
Associate Research Fellow, ISPI Centre on Business Scenarios
Alessandro Gili
Alessandro Gili is Research Fellow at the ISPI Centre on Geoeconomics and at the Centre on Infrastructure, with the knowledge partnership of McKinsey & Company. He was also a member of the T20 Task Force on Infrastructure Investment and Financing during the G20 Italian Presidency.
Alessandro Gili
Liza Cirolia
Senior Researcher, African Centre for Cities
Liza Cirolia
Liza Cirolia's research areas include urban governance, subnational finance, and infrastructure. She teaches on ACC’s Master in Sustainable Urban Practice (MSUP) and consults for local and international organizations.
Liza Cirolia
Rifquah Hendricks
Senior Social Consultant
Rifquah Hendricks
Rifquah Hendricks is a senior social consultant in the infrastructure sector. She has in-house, consulting, and advisory experience across the energy and mining value chains. She focuses on social development, inclusive procurement, transformation, and the just transition.
Rifquah Hendricks
Julie Miao
Julie Miao
Julie Miao is an Australian Research Council Discovery Research Fellow and Associate Professor in Property and Economic Development at the University of Melbourne. She holds honorary positions at Harvard, Shanghai Jiaotong, Hong Kong, and Adelaide universities.
Julie Miao
Researcher, African Centre for Cities
Andrea Pollio
Andrea Pollio is the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow jointly at the African Centre for Cities, University of Cape Town, and at the department of Urban and Regional Studies and Planning at the Polytechnic of Turin.
Andrea Pollio
Distinguished Professor, Trinity College
Xiangming Chen is a Raether Distinguished Professor of Global Urban Studies and Sociology at Trinity College, a guest professor at Fudan University, Shanghai, and an adjunct professor at the Graduate School of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.

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Matt Watson

Former Communications Officer
Headshot for Matt Watson

Center on Global Cities

This project comes from the Council's Center on Global Cities, which focuses on elevating global cities as central actors that shape world affairs and advance city-based solutions to global challenges.
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