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This book delves into the political-economy of China’s Maritime Silk Road Initiative (MSRI), part of the larger Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), with a focus on Southeast Asia (SEA). It represents the second in a three-part book series on China’s MSRI. It discusses the state of the MSRI in various SEA countries such as Indonesia and Myanmar, highlights the international and domestic economic and political factors that shape individual SEA country’s embrace of China’s scheme, and examines the effects of China’s MSRI in individual SEA countries such as Cambodia and Malaysia. It also contemplates the role of third parties such as India and the United States on the behaviors of SEA countries and the implementation of the MSRI. It shows the MSRI is neither a boon nor bust and that the MSRI’s progress and effects are contingent on many factors requiring attention by those wanting to understand China’s mega initiative.



China’s MSRI in Southeast Asia: Dynamism Amidst the Delays, Doubts, and Dilemmas

This chapter supplies background on China’s Maritime Silk Road Initiative (MSRI). It also surveys Southeast Asia (SEA)’s relations with China from the 1950s through the present. Furthermore, it delves into the MSRI in SEA, looking at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ “collective” stance towards China’s initiative and trade, COFDI, and contracting patterns associated with the MSRI in SEA. Beyond this, it summarizes the book’s chapters. Lastly, it details the book’s findings and discusses areas for future research. The book shows the MSRI in SEA on a project and macroeconomic level has yet to produce earthshattering results, though there have been positive outcomes. It also demonstrates domestic politics plays a critical role in shaping the extent to which SEA countries embrace and implement the MSRI.
Jean-Marc F. Blanchard

Are Southeast Asian Countries Willing to Join the Chorus of China’s Maritime Silk Road Initiative?

This chapter begins by showing Southeast Asian (SEA) states fall into three camps as far as their attitudes and reactions to China’s Maritime Silk Road Initiative (MSRI) are concerned. One camp, which includes countries like Cambodia, is strongly supportive. A second camp, which includes countries such as Indonesia, is supportive, albeit ambivalently. A third camp encompasses countries like the Philippines that have oscillated between support and opposition. This chapter develops a framework to explain why SEA countries have differing attitudes and reaction to China’s MSRI as manifest in their rhetoric, signing of agreements with China, and welcoming of Chinese special economic zones (SEZs) and why some states have shifted their postures and practices over time. It asserts domestic factors explains much of the observed variation.
Shaofeng Chen

China’s Maritime Silk Road Initiative and Indonesia

This chapter investigates how Indonesia’s maritime initiative, the Global Maritime Fulcrum (GMF) may or may not fit into China’s Maritime Silk Road Initiative (MSRI). It reveals that despite warm rhetoric, apparent complementarities between Indonesia’s GMF and China’s MSRI and the two countries’ economies, and some political reasons for cooperation, Indonesian participation in the scheme is limited. Reasons include the vagueness of the MSRI, the newness of the GMF, and the fact that the goals of the MSRI and GMF are not as synchronized as some believe. A study of the Jakarta–Bandung High-Speed Railway reveals how complicated it can be to bring a joint project online and to fruition. More broadly, the chapter demonstrates the necessity of considering international and domestic variables to analyze the MSRI.
Siwage Dharma Negara, Leo Suryadinata

Malaysia and China’s MSRI: The Road to China Was Taken Before the (Maritime Silk) Road Was Built

This chapter probes the impact of China’s Maritime Silk Road Initiative (MSRI) on Malaysia’s stance toward China and China’s favored policies. It notes that while Malaysia has indeed inclined itself toward China, Kuala Lumpur’s shift occurred before the MSRI and the magnitude of Malaysia’s shift is less than one would expect not just in light of the MSRI, but also given Malaysia’s other substantial economic links with China. Factors driving the disconnect between the MSRI’s/China’s economic lures and Malaysian political behaviors include the economic limits of the MSRI and Malaysia’s broader economic relationship with China and Malaysia’s interest in protecting its sovereignty and national independence. Beyond this, the chapter highlights there are many other political variables that have pushed Malaysia in the direction of China.
Jean-Marc F. Blanchard

Myanmar’s Role in China’s Maritime Silk Road Initiative

This chapter provides a rich overview of Myanmar’s relationship with China within the context of the Maritime Silk Road Initiative (MSRI). While many projects in Myanmar long predate the MSRI, they have been reinvigorated because of their importance to China, owing to its resource and trade insecurities and Myanmar’s economic needs. Still, these projects coupled with Myanmar’s other massive trade and investment ties with China have brought Myanmar only partly under China’s sway because of the countervailing forces emanating from inter alia Myanmar’s democratization, the pluralization of its polity, concerns about Chinese domination, problems associated with Chinese projects, and interactions between Myanmar and third parties such as India. Still, proximity, Myanmar’s development requirements, and the Rakhine crisis ensure Naypyidaw must maintain good ties with Beijing.
J. Mohan Malik

The Political Economy of China’s Maritime Silk Road Initiative in Cambodia

Cambodia is one of the most enthusiastic backers of China’s Maritime Silk Road Initiative (MSRI) and maintains very close bonds with its northern neighbor. The MSRI has something to do with the latter given it can advance Cambodia’s quest to grow and become a more skills-based economy connected with global value chains. Still, the warm relationship is not just based on the MSRI or Cambodia’s economic ties with China. Phnom Penh’s very positive stance towards Beijing also has to do with the help it gives the regime in fending off pressures. The longer-term political implications of the MSRI will depend upon how well Cambodia manages associated issues, if MSRI projects ensnare Cambodia in a “debt trap,” and the extent to which Cambodian sovereignty anxieties intensify.
Pheakdey Heng, Vannarith Chheang

China’s Maritime Silk Road Initiative, Southeast Asia, and the United States

The Maritime Silk Road Initiative (MSRI) will face many hurdles that will impact its realization in Southeast Asia (SEA) and China’s ability to translate its economic successes into increased political reach. Still, it is likely to advance China’s ties with the region, which raises numerous issues for SEA and the United States (US). China’s scheme challenges the US’ historic leadership role in the region, especially when the latter seems to be questioning the role itself, though various American trade and investment links with the region have been growing. If the US wants to remain relevant in the region it will need to improve its own economic situation, develop a clear regional trade policy, take advantage of MSRI opportunities, and bolster its connectivity with the region.
Frank Lavin

The Evolution of India’s Look East Policy and China’s Maritime Silk Road Initiative

India’s expanded relationship with Southeast Asia (SEA) flows from a confluence of factors that emerged in the 1990s and gave birth to India’s Look East Policy (LEP). Under the LEP, India bolstered its trade with the region, moved to participate in regional institutions like the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and signed various accords such as trade agreements with ASEAN and individual SEA countries. China’s increasing footprint in the region has brought India and SEA countries progressively closer and led to a more muscular Indian approach known as the Act East Policy which has a more prominent military component. Broadening and deepening ties with SEA also have something to do with China’s Maritime Silk Road Initiative which has provoked Indian anxieties and diverse countermeasures.
Christopher K. Colley, Sumit Ganguly


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