Most people attribute the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to Beijing’s imperialist ambitions. In her talk, Professor Min Ye goes beyond top-level rhetoric, however, and investigate BRI’s origins, its implementation, and its on-the-ground effects inside China. She unpacks different local governments' approaches to the BRI by discussing how subnational entities have leveraged Beijing’s grand strategy and how the implementation of projects and programs related to the BRI facilitate local economic agendas. China’s local developmentalism, which has undergirded not only the BRI but also other national-level strategies (like the Western Development Program and China Goes Global policy), has propelled the Chinese economy from a middle power in 1998 to a superpower in 2018. The talk concludes with a discussion of COVID-19’s impact on China’s BRI as well as preliminary findings from Professor Ye’s current research into other state-mobilized development initiatives in China.