The vast investment by China around the globe as part of its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is unprecedented in size and scope—and has broad implications for participating nations. Often referred to as the New Silk Road, the BRI was conceived in 2013 by President Xi Jinping as a means of connecting East Asia to Europe, expanding trade relationships and redefining supply chains, and upgrading infrastructure. However, as the scope of BRI has widened to Africa and LATAM, concerns have grown about China’s growing influence and the “debt trap” that many recipient nations will bear for decades to come.
Nowhere in the world are concerns as pronounced as in Southeast Asia, where cost overruns, deforestation and habitat destruction, military expansion, and influence peddling top the list of criticisms. It’s worth noting that China’s expenses over the lifetime of the BRI could top $8 trillion, according to some experts.
China Through a SEA Lens, a fantastic series from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, delivers wide-ranging perspectives from acclaimed scholars across Southeast Asia as to the impact of the BRI over the last decade and is well worth a read.