China’s belt and road: from Malaysia to Philippines, Asean projects face roadblocks

  • Chinese firms have since 2013 signed deals with Asean nations to build projects such as railways, bridges, dams and special economic zones.
  • But many have been slow to start, with negotiations over loan amounts, environmental concerns and corruption causing years-long delays

Murray Hiebert

Murray Hiebert

Published: 1:30pm, 8 Sep, 2020 SCMP

Workers from the China Communications Constructions Company at the construction site of the East Coast Rail Link project in Malaysia. Photo: AFP
Workers from the China Communications Constructions Company at the construction site of the East Coast Rail Link project in Malaysia. Photo: AFP

Barrels of ink have been spent on hyping up the Belt and Road Initiative, which Beijing launched with great fanfare in 2013. But in the intervening years, the programme has faced a raft of challenges as it sought to move across China’s southern border into Southeast Asia.

The RWR Advisory Group in Washington, which monitors belt-and-road projects around the world, estimates that China has started work on or completed projects totalling US$200 billion in Southeast Asia in the five years beginning in 2013. But that number seems inflated to someone who has visited most of the countries in recent years.

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