Encountering Chinese development in the Maldives: Gifts, hospitality, and rumours

Luke Heslop*, Laura Jeffery

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


This chapter examines the longest and most developed road in the Maldives archipelago, a fifteen-kilometre-long link road connecting four islands of the Laamu (or Haddummati) Atoll.In the planning phase, there were tensions between those who argued that the road should connect houses to the school and the mosque and those who argued that the road should connect the harbour to the market. Such appeals, bifurcated along gender lines, reflect local mobility concerns and were tied to existing political rifts between the four islands that were intensified by the appearance of a new infrastructural asset. The built road facilitates a multitude of local encounters as people travel further and more regularly, but it is also through the road that islanders encounter the global forces of capital and construction that shape their islands. The Laamu link road was a ‘gift’ from the Chinese government,constructed by the Jiangsu Transportation Engineering Group (JTEG), and amidst local mobility concerns and inter-island politics swirl rumours and hearsay of land grabs and international power struggles between China, India, the US, and Saudi Arabia. This chapter,as well as being an ethnographic exposition of Chinese infrastructure development in a South Asian archipelago, explores the road as a social experience as it crosscuts competing visions of modernity, global connectivity, and anxiety about material change on remote coral atolls in the Indian Ocean.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHighways and Hierarchies
Subtitle of host publicationEthnographies of Mobility from the Himalaya to the Indian Ocean
EditorsLuke Heslop, Galen Murton
Place of PublicationAmsterdam
PublisherAmsterdam University Press
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic)9789048552511
ISBN (Print)9789463723046
Publication statusPublished - 21 Sep 2021

Publication series

NameNew Mobilities in Asia
PublisherAmsterdam University Press


  • Maldives
  • encounter
  • geopolitics
  • rumour
  • gifts
  • link road


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