“China’s Maritime Silk Road Initiative (MSRI) and Southeast Asia: A Chinese ‘pond’ not ‘lake’ in the Works”

Jean-Marc F. Blanchard
Publication Date: 
May 1st, 2018

There is raging speculation about the potential implications of China’s One Belt, One Road (OBOR)/Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) for the global order, spheres of influence and the positions of extra-regional powers. Much commentary is overly broad and lacks a clear and systematic method for examining OBOR/BRI’s future consequences. Focusing on the Maritime Silk Road Initiative (MSRI), a major OBOR/BRI component, in the Southeast Asian context, this article shows China’s own situation and Southeast Asian international and domestic economic and political variables will hinder the complete implementation of the MSRI. Even if the MSRI is fully realized, various factors will limit the political impact of the MSRI’s economic attractions. In short, the MSRI is more likely to yield a Chinese pond than a Chinese lake.

*****This article flowed from a Wong MNC Center organized and co-sponsored conference in November 2016 on the Political Economy of China’s Maritime Silk Road Initiative (MSRI) and Southeast Asia hosted and co-sponsored by East China Normal University (Shanghai, China) and a Wong MNC Center organized and co-sponsored workshop in May 2017 hosted and co-sponsored by the Stanford University Asia-Pacific Research Center Southeast Asia Program (Stanford, California, USA). It is published in Journal of Contemporary China, Vol. 27, No. 111 (2018) and viewable at: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10670564.2018.1410959. Copyright remains with the original holders.