Energizing the Greater Mekong Subregion: Rethinking the Belt and Road Initiative

Abstract

Since its launch in late 2013 by Chinese President Xi Jinping, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has become a significant factor in shaping China’s economic and diplomatic relations with the world. While there are many studies pertaining to the BRI’s origins and characteristics, relatively little attention has been drawn to the responses of the Southeast Asian states sharing the Mekong River with China and how they have internalized the initiative to serve their domestic and regional agendas. This paper unravels the Greater Mekong Subregion’s complex patterns of reactions to the BRI by examining the development of Chinese-sponsored energy infrastructure, namely the renewable energy (hydropower) and non-renewable energy (oil and gas) sub-industries. Rather than reflecting a straightforward manifestation of China’s economic prowess, the paper demonstrates that a wide array of influential regional and domestic interest groups have emerged as key partners to Chinese firms in both sub-industries. Specifically, large, well-capitalized Chinese firms have had to dovetail their corporate goals with stakeholders representing the interest of the other Mekong riparian states. Such cross-border interdependence illustrates that while these energy projects are Chinese-influenced, they are not necessarily Chinese-dominated.

Speaker

Guanie Lim (林鏆湙) is Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Nanyang Centre for Public Administration, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. His main research interests are public policy, value chain analysis, and China’s Belt and Road Initiative in Southeast Asia. Guanie is also interested in broader political economic issues within Asia, especially those of China, Vietnam, and Malaysia. He is currently working on his monograph, which details the economic catching-up process of key Southeast Asian economies.

Venue

Room 315, Steele Building (#03)