BRI

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (left) poses for a photograph with Sri Lanka's Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa during their bilateral meeting in Colombo, Sri Lanka, 9 January 2022. (Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters)

China's growing influence in the Indian Ocean: Wang Yi’s visit to Comoros, Sri Lanka and the Maldives

Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s swing through three strategic island states — the Comoros, Maldives, and Sri Lanka — as part of his annual African tour at the beginning of January underlines China’s continuing quest for a larger role in the Indian Ocean. Are China’s economic incentives and themes of non-intervention and sovereign equality resonating with the Indian Ocean littoral at the expense of India and the US?
This photo taken on 4 December 2021 shows the China-Laos Railway international freight train departing from Chongqing International Logistics Hub Park. (CNS)

The China-Laos railway: How Laos can make the most of its hefty investment

The China-Laos railway linking China’s Yunnan province to Vientiane, the capital of Laos, was officially opened in December 2021. This mega project under China’s Belt and Road Initiative is expected to improve connectivity and stimulate the economy but Laos has incurred hefty external debt to achieve this, says EAI academic Yu Hong. The railway alone is also just the hardware; the Laotians will have to do more to make the best of its investment.
Indian Army soldiers stand next to a M777 Ultra Lightweight Howitzer positioned at Penga Teng Tso ahead of Tawang, near the Line of Actual Control (LAC), neighbouring China, in India's Arunachal Pradesh state on 20 October 2021. (Money Sharma/AFP)

Overcoming power imbalances and policy clashes: The quest for a peaceful China-India future

Mind games among the US, China, Russia and India may influence Sino-Indian engagement in the new year and beyond. China could move even closer to Russia in dealing with India, and the US could further call on India as a “major defence partner” in its intense competition with China. External factors aside, a peaceful and cooperative China-India future requires synchronised political will in their bilateral and global diplomacy. Key is unequal power and core interests as China and India each employ the diplomacy of smart power. Will an uneasy status quo be maintained in their long-unresolved boundary dispute, and will they find the impetus for collaboration in a post-Covid-19 order?
A man enters a taxi in the Chinatown district of Bangkok on 9 November 2021. (Jack Taylor/AFP)

Chinese investments are increasing across sectors and regions in Thailand

Even as other countries are pulling out of Thailand due to the pandemic, China has been accelerating its foreign direct investment (FDI) into the country. This strong FDI momentum is prompted by China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) as well as investors' interest in various industries across Thailand. Thai officials are hopeful that this trend will continue. Academics Aranya Siriphon and Fanzura Banu look at the numbers and offer suggestions for attracting even greater Chinese investment interest.
This photo on 26 November 2021 shows journalists gathered at a train station in Kunming to join a preview ride on the China-Laos railway, which is set to start operating in early December 2021. (CNS)

Laos hopes for economic boost with the opening of Laos-China railway

ISEAS academic Nick Freeman says that Laos’ first major railway, inaugurated on 3 December 2021, will create a new link with the Chinese market and has the potential to be a game changer for the Lao economy. This comes at a good time, as Laos seeks post-pandemic recovery in 2022. But the opening of the railway alone does not guarantee such a prospect. While the railway might boost industries such as tourism and exports, leading to a shift away from traditional sectors such as power generation and mineral mining, Laos needs to develop economic "muscle tissue" to ensure that the potential of the railway is translated into tangible results through investing in both hard and soft infrastructure.
Paramilitary police officers keep watch as people climb the Great Wall of China in Beijing, China, 1 October 2021. (Thomas Peter/Reuters)

Wang Gungwu: China, ASEAN and the new Maritime Silk Road

Professor Wang Gungwu was a keynote speaker at the webinar titled “The New Maritime Silk Road: China and ASEAN” organised by the Academy of Professors Malaysia. He reminds us that a sense of region was never a given for Southeast Asia; trade tied different peoples from land and sea together but it was really the former imperial masters and the US who made the region “real”. Western powers have remained interested in Southeast Asia through the years, as they had created the Southeast Asia concept and even ASEAN. On the other hand, China was never very much interested in the seas or countries to its south; this was until it realised during the Cold War that Southeast Asia and ASEAN had agency and could help China balance its needs in the maritime sphere amid the US's persistent dominance. The Belt and Road Initiative reflects China’s worldview and the way it is maintaining its global networks to survive and thrive in a new era. This is an edited transcript of Professor Wang’s speech.
This file combination of pictures created on 8 June 2021 shows Chinese President Xi Jinping (left) and US President Joe Biden, who are scheduled to hold a virtual summit next week. (Nicolas Asfouri and Nicholas Kamm/AFP)

Will a Biden-Xi virtual summit change anything?

A virtual summit between US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping will allegedly be held next week. However, with comments from the White House that the meeting is not about deliverables, and the US’s continued attacks such as Biden’s criticism of China’s non-appearance at the recent UN climate change conference in Glasgow, are prospects for major breakthroughs bright? Zaobao correspondent Edwin Ong looks at what the session might bring.
A health worker inoculates a woman with a dose of the Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine during a mass vaccination at a zoo in Surabaya, Indonesia, on 13 September 2021. (Juni Kriswanto/AFP)

China's vaccine diplomacy in Southeast Asia is working, but can it keep up the good work?

For several years now, China has sought to increase its soft power, spending resources to do so, including through providing funding for its Belt and Road Initiative and Confucius Institutes. But its plan has not been very effective, not least because it is often perceived to use coercion more than persuasion. But after conducting rounds of vaccine diplomacy during Covid-19 pandemic, are its efforts finally bearing fruit?
Workers produce adhesive tapes for flexible printed circuits (FPC) at a factory in Yancheng, Jiangsu province, China, on 15 September 2021. (STR/AFP)

How can China benefit from the CPTPP?

China has made it clear that it wants to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). This will allow it to strengthen its image as an advocate of free trade, gain some cover from future sanctions by the US, and most importantly, spur domestic reform. Academic Gu Qingyang delves into the topic.