Belt and Road Initiative: China’s Lending Hands Come with Claws


With the economic crisis unfolding in Sri Lanka, there is a renewed interest in better understanding and analyzing the Belt and Road Initiative to prevent nations from both falling under China’s orbit and as a consequence to its “debt-traps”. This issue brief broadens the scope of analysis on the BRI by examining projects in South East Asia that may have greater geo-economic and geo-strategic significance than debt traps or deep sea ports or even power rivalry. While China has taken advantage of the infrastructure deficit in South East Asia as it has in other parts of the world, the old adage, ‘the devil is in the details’ is an appropriate characterization of the BRI in the region. This paper details the cost of roads laid per mile to the significance of special economic zones (SEZ) in the Mekong region in shaping the regional trade architecture.

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