Security Challenges
Volume 16, No.3 (2020)

Chinas Economic Statecraft: The Belt and Road in Southeast Asia and the Impact on the Indo-Pacific

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), is China’s grand plan to revive the ancient trade routes across land and sea. Under the BRI platform, Beijing has pledged to invest billions of dollars in infrastructure sectors across Eurasia (Economic Belt) and the Indo–Pacific (Maritime Silk Road). Without doubt, the huge investment, together with China’s growing power, has inevitably generated significant geostrategic repercussions in regions where geopolitical contestations between China and the United States are already on the rise. In the eyes of many Chinese analysts, however, the BRI is more for defensive purposes, primarily serving as a direct response to the Obama administration’s “strategic rebalance” in the Asia Pacific region in 2011. Regardless of the motivations behind BRI, be they domestic economic or geopolitical, the BRI has produced significant regional strategic repercussions. To counter the influence of BRI, Washington has become more determined to promote the Free and Open Indo Pacific strategy (FOIP)3 that was initiated by Japan as early as 2007. Aware of the repercussion, Beijing has repeatedly highlighted that its BRI was not meant to counter FOIP. However, Beijing barely uses or adopts the ‘Indo-Pacific’ concept in public. Ostensibly, BRI and FOIP are often compared and treated as tools of rivalry to counter each other’s influence.

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