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Role of Religion Along China’s Belt and Road Initiative

10 Oct, 2018

Immediate Release: Beijing, Oct. 13, 2018

Dr. Brian Grim will be the only foreigner to deliver a keynote speech at the Oct. 13-14 conference at Minzu University in Beijing on China’s ambitious Belt and Road initiative (or One Belt One Road, OBOR). Using data from his work at Boston University and his previous work at Penn State and the Pew Research Center, Grim will outline the the role of religion in the OBOR countries where Beijing is hoping to do and expand business. He argues that successful international relations requires a good understanding of these dynamics.

The Role of Religion Along China’s Belt and Road Initiative

One Belt One Road Religious Literacy: Part 2

Brian J. Grim, Ph.D. (葛百彦)


In 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping launched the One Belt One Road initiative (OBOR, also known as the Belt & Road or Silk Road initiative). Over the past five years, scores of countries and international organizations have actively participated in OBOR which promotes common development and sharing, policy communication, facility connectivity, unimpeded trade, financing, and people-to-people links. As with any grand plan, challenges are numerous. Just as the pilgrims in the Chinese epic Journey to the West had to overcome a series of challenges to bring Buddhist scriptures back from India, Chinese goods, services and businesses also need to overcome many challenges on the road to success. One leading Hong Kong Business CEO investing heavily into OBOR pointed to cultural barriers as “quite the most challenging part” of being successful.

Grim’s presentation is the second in a two-part study contributing to successfully meeting those challenges. The first study provided data on and analysis of the religious demography of the 63 countries (besides China) participating in OBOR. This study provides data on additional religious dynamics in OBOR countries, including how religion impacts governments and economics.

Grim will present the pivotal research he and Roger Finke published in the American Sociological Review that shows how government restrictions on religion contribute to religious violence, which in turn adds to social regulation of religion, setting of a cycle of religious violence. These dynamics are impediments for sustainable development and economic growth in OBOR countries.

Grim will also present his research  from the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion (with Greg Clark and Robert Snyder) showing that government restrictions on religion and social hostilities involving religion in OBOR countries are key factors holding back economic growth.