University of Nottingham Malaysia
School of
Politics, History and International Relations

Image of Benjamin Robin Barton

Benjamin Robin Barton

Associate Professor, Faculty of Social Sciences



Dr Benjamin Barton is Head of School and Associate Professor in the School of Politics, History and International Relations (PHIR) at the University of Nottingham's Malaysia. Dr Barton graduated in 2016 from a joint-PhD programme between King's College London (War Studies Department) and Hong Kong University. Prior to undertaking his doctoral degree, Dr Barton was a Research Assistant for the College of Europe's Chair of EU-China Relations, as well as a Teaching Assistant for the College of Europe's Department of EU International Relations & Diplomacy Studies. In parallel to pursuing his doctoral research project, Dr Barton accumulated more than three years experience working as a Project Manager for consultancies in Brussels and Paris specialised in putting together proposals and managing projects emanating from EU-funded research grants.

Expertise Summary

Dr Barton's areas of research specialise around Chinese foreign policy and, more specifically, Chinese economic statecraft (as expressed via the Belt-and-Road Initiative and the Maritime Silk Road), Chinese security policy (pertaining to its relations to the African continent, South Asia and Central Asia) as well as its bilateral relations with the European Union.

Teaching Summary

My current teaching and learning interests include Chinese Foreign Policy, International Relations of the Asia Pacific, EU Politics and European History. I currently only teach at undergraduate level.

Research Summary

My current research interests focus on the application of Chinese economic statecraft via the Maritime Silk Road Initiative (MSRI) in terms of understanding whether or not this application has… read more

Current Research

My current research interests focus on the application of Chinese economic statecraft via the Maritime Silk Road Initiative (MSRI) in terms of understanding whether or not this application has generated political/strategic leverage for China in parts of the world traversed by the MSRI. My most recent research on the topic has dealt with questions pertaining to the String of Pearls debate surrounding Chinese investments in ports in South Asia and the Indian Ocean Region. Indeed, I am interested in better understanding the existence of any form of security implications of MSRI projects. I am currently working on a project dealing with Chinese investments in the Doraleh Container Terminal in Djibouti so as to better comprehend the association between these investments, political influence (often labelled as 'debt-trap diplomacy') and the agency of 'recipient' states - in this case, the Djiboutian government.

Past Research

Dr Barton's most recent publications include the following:

Books and Monographs

The Doraleh Disputes: Infrastructure Politics in the Global South, Singapore: Palgrave Macmillan, November 2022

Political Trust and the Politics of Security Engagement: China and the European Union in Africa, Abingdon: Routledge, September 2017

Jing Men and Benjamin Barton (eds.), 中国,欧盟在非洲:欧中关系中的非洲因素 ('China and the European Union: Partners or Competitors in Africa?'), Beijing: Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, December 2011

Jing Men and Benjamin Barton (eds.), China and the EU in Africa: Partners or Competitors?, Farnham: Ashgate Publishings, May 2011

Book chapters

Benjamin Barton, 'Building bridges to Asia? A critical appraisal of the Global Gateway's place in Southeast Asia's complex infrastructure politics', in Sameer Kumar (ed.), Bridging Asia-Europe Relations, Singapore: Springer Nature (forthcoming 2024).

Benjamin Barton, 'The BRI at 10: China's infrastructure geopolitics at a crucial juncture', in Julian Henderson & Christian Müller (eds.), The Silk Roads: Cultural Interactions, Perceptions, and Peripheries across Eurasia, 3000 BCE to the Present, Abingdon: Routledge (forthcoming 2024).

Benjamin Barton, 'La politique sécuritaire de la Chine en Afrique : Vers une évolution de fond du principe de non-ingérence ?', in Sophie Wintgens and Xavier Aurégan (eds.), Les Dynamiques de la Chine en Afrique et Amérique Latine : Enjeux, Défis et Perspectives, Brussels: Éditions Academia, March 2019.

Benjamin Barton and Ariane de Bellefroid, 'China and the EU in Sub-Saharan Africa', in Jan Wouters, Jean-Christophe Defraigne and Matthieu Burnay (eds.), EU-China in the World: Analysing Relations with Developing and Emerging Countries, Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, February 2015

Benjamin Barton, 'The Emergence of the European External Action Service (EEAS): A Retrospective on the Institutional Wrangling for the Soul of European Diplomacy', in Dieter Mahncke and Sieglinde Gstöhl (eds.), European Union Diplomacy: Coherence, Unity and Effectiveness, Brussels: P.I.E. Pieter Lang Publishers, March 2012

Jing Men and Benjamin Barton, 'China's Soft Power: A Blessing or a Challenge to World Governance?', in Guo Sujian and Deng Zhenlai (eds.), China's Searches for Good Governance: Inside and Outside China, London: Palgrave Macmillan, October 2011

Refereed journal articles

Benjamin Barton, 'Infrastructure nationalism and political vulnerability - Examining the stalled negotiations over the Bagamoyo port project during Magufuli's reign', Journal of Asian and African Studies (2021)

Benjamin Barton, 'Agency and Autonomy in the Maritime Silk Road Initiative: An Examination of Djibouti's Doraleh Container Terminal Disputes', The Chinese Journal of International Politics (2021)

Benjamin Barton, 'The Belt-and-Road Initiative as a paradigm change for European Union-China security cooperation? The case of Central Asia', Asia-Europe Journal (2021)

Benjamin Barton, 'Leveraging the "String of Pearls" for strategic gains? An assessment of the Maritime Silk Road Initiative's (MSRI) economic/security nexus in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR)', Asian Security, 2020, vol. 17, no. 2, pp. 216-235.

Benjamin Barton, 'China's security policy in Africa: A new or false dawn for the evolution for the evolution of the application of China's non-interference principle?', South African Journal of International Affairs, 2018, vol. 25, no. 3, pp. 413-434.

Benjamin Barton, 'The EU's Engagement of China in the Indian Ocean - Getting the People's Liberation Army Navy Onboard in the Fight against Somali Piracy', The RUSI Journal, 2013, vol. 158, no. 6, pp. 66-73

Policy Papers

Benjamin Barton, The United Kingdom and the Belt-and-Road Initiative (BRI) in a post-Brexit Age: Getting the UK BRI Policy Response Right, Nottingham: University of Nottingham Asia Research Institute Policy Brief Background Report

Non-refereed journal articles

Benjamin Barton, 'Puissance montante qui modifie les règles du jeu ?' ('China: A Rising Power Changing the Rules of the Game?'), La Revue Nouvelle - La Chine : Une puissance (-in)certain (The New Review - China: An uncertain power?), Issue 4, 2013, pp. 36-42

Paul Quinn and Benjamin Barton, 'Introduction - Making EU Diplomacy Work: Treaty Changes, Political Will and the Quiet Diplomacy Strategy?', in Paul Quinn (ed.), 'Making European Diplomacy Work: Can the EEAS Deliver?', EU Diplomacy Papers, 08/2011, pp. 5-9

Benjamin Barton, 'Book Review - Prospects and Challenges for EU-China Relations in the 21st Century: The Partnership and Cooperation Agreement', EU-China Observer, Issue 5, 2010, pp. 26-28

Benjamin Barton, 'EU-China-Africa Trichotomy: The EU, China and the Normative Power Concept on the African Continent', EU-China Observer, Issue 3, 2009, pp. 12-18


Benjamin Barton, 'How the German government was divided by a Chinese investment in the Port of Hamburg', The Conversation, 2022

Benjamin Barton, 'The European Union in the Indo-Pacific: Balancing China, cooperating with the Philippines', FACTS Asia, 2022

Benjamin Barton, 'The European Union and regional security the Indo-Pacific: Quo vadis?', Philippine Strategic Forum, 2021

Benjamin Barton, 'Prospects for EU-China security cooperation in the age of the Belt and Road Initiative', Asia Dialogue, 2019

Benjamin Barton, 'China's security footprint in Africa: Towards an evolution of the application of its non-interference principle?', Asia Dialogue, 2018

Benjamin Barton, 'Counter-Piracy Cooperation: A Case Study of the EU-China Strategic Partnership', The Glocal, 2013

Benjamin Barton, 'The EU-China Strategic Partnership: Counter-Piracy Cooperation Game-Changer?', e-International Relations, 2013

Newspaper article contributions

Tim Baker, 'As coronavirus spreads, has China learned from the SARS epidemic?', Evening Standard, 25 January 2020

Sébastien Le Belzic, 'A Djibouti, « la Chine commence à déchanter »', Le Monde, 5 February 2018

Sébastien Le Belzic, 'Ces marques chinoises qui débarquent en Afrique', Le Monde, 22 January 2018

Zhang Ziyu, '大国角力非洲: 丰富资源和新兴市场引发投资热潮' ('The Big Power Struggle in Africa: Emerging Markets Triggering an Investment Boom in Abundant Energy Resources'), The Time Weekly (时代周报), 16 September 2014, p. 9

Zhang Ziyu, '中国人在非洲:挑战才开始' ('Chinese in Africa: Let the Challenge Begin'), The Time Weekly (时代周报), 31 May 2012, p. 11

Television/online interviews

Benjamin Barton, 'Covid-19 and China's soft power', UoNARI Malaysia Covid-19 Conversation, 25 May 2020

Benjamin Barton, Asia House TV, 19 February 2020

Future Research

My research will continue to explore the economic/security nexus of the Maritime Silk Road as it evolves, with a geographic focus encompassing South Asia, the Indian Ocean and the African continent.

School of Politics, History and International Relations

University of Nottingham Malaysia
Jalan Broga, 43500 Semenyih
Selangor Darul Ehsan, Malaysia

telephone: +6 (03) 8924 8253
fax: +6 (03) 8924 8019

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