Mind the gap: China's mega-project promises in Southeast Asia fall short of reality

In Bangkok in 2010, Chinese and Thai officials discussed a dream: the possibility of working together on Southeast Asia's first high-speed rail project. The train will connect Bangkok to Nong Khai on the border with Laos, where it will connect to another high-speed rail network built by China, eventually reaching Kunming, the capital of southern China's Yunnan Province.

Those discussions took place three years before Chinese President Xi Jinping launched the Belt and Road Initiative.

But the Thailand-China railway has become a Belt and Road flagship project that will represent China's monopoly on economic connectivity and high-tech infrastructure in developing Southeast Asia.

Some of these projects are worth US$77 billion – but more than $50 billion worth of promises have yet to be fulfilled.

China offered to finance the project debt Worth more than 12 billion US dollars. After 14 long years nervous Negotiations, delays, deteriorates bilateral relations, CancellationAnd Discussions Over the risk of BRI”Debt traps”, the Thai government eventually call To move forward with construction – but more importantly, to fund the entire project themselves.

Similar stories abound throughout Southeast Asia. In the Philippines, China's failure to implement several transport mega-projects is likely to lead to interventions by Japan and Korea. In Malaysia, the government has pulled out of two energy pipeline mega-projects due to corruption scandals. These projects, and more, form the basis of the new Lowy Institute Data Snapshot. Mind the Gap: Ambition and Delivery in China's BRI Mega-Projects in Southeast Asia, which It seeks to explain the gap between promise and delivery in China's actions in Southeast Asia.

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We analyzed the Thai-China high-speed rail and 23 infrastructure mega projects promised by China to Southeast Asian countries. Some of these projects are worth US$77 billion – but more than $50 billion worth of promises have yet to be fulfilled.


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