China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) continues to draw criticism and disapproval. Its sceptics brand it as China’s Marshall Plan or as a ‘neo-imperial project’. To ensure the initiative’s success, China should heed some of these concerns and take steps to improve the implementation of BRI-related projects. Doing so is particularly important in ASEAN — a region that stands to greatly benefit from BRI investment, if done right.
ASEAN is the world’s sixth-largest economy with a total GDP of more than US$2.5 trillion. Economies across the region are growing steadily at an average annual rate of around 5 per cent. Sustaining this growth requires the region to meet its growing infrastructure needs, which are estimated to amount to US$2.8 trillion from 2016 to 2030.
China’s BRI is important for ASEAN because it can help to fund and meet the region’s infrastructure needs. It also supports the success of the ASEAN Community Vision 2025 and Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity 2025 initiatives.