Two China-driven projects show striking contrasts. The newly opened Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville Expressway has been well-received by Cambodians. But grand plans for Sihanoukville to be an investment hub and “multi-purpose” city have instead seen Chinese businesses crowding out locals, a boom-bust cycle in construction and illicit trades.
The Group of Seven’s new infrastructure and investment drive seeks to provide what Southeast Asia needs, such as financing for hard infrastructure. However, ISEAS academic Chanrith Ngin believes that the need for multiple stakeholders and financing issues might not garner much buy-in from the region, and some countries may opt out to avoid being caught in the geopolitical competition between China and the US.