China’s Belt and Road Initiative and Southeast Asian Responses

Lead Researchers: Lee Jones (QMUL) and Cheng-Chwee Kuik (National University of Malaysia)

This project examines China’s rise and Southeast Asian states’ response to it, focusing on China’s “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI). China’s rise is increasingly contradictory: it combines growing pseudo-military assertiveness in arenas like the South China Sea with diplomatic and economic charm offensives like the launch of the BRI and the associated Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. Our project seeks to explain both this contradictory approach and how Southeast Asian governments respond to it. We hypothesise that both are driven by regimes’ concerns for internal stability and legitimacy. The project is significant for two reasons. In terms of theory, it challenges the structural realist proposition that overemphasizes power-balancing as the drivers of state behaviour. In terms of policy, explaining how regional states are responding to China is crucial for understanding the direction of regional order in the “Asian century”.

For more information on that, check the research project website

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