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Section 1 - Overview and Analysis

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 March 2024

Evelyn Goh
Affiliation:
Australian National University, Canberra
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Summary

This first section provides an overview and analysis of the full Quantitative Report which follows.

Southeast Asia’s growing economic linkages with and dependence on China for investment have generated political opportunities and strategic concerns in equal measure. However, recent discussions have tended to focus on infrastructure projects, especially those associated with the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). This narrow focus can be misleading, and an understanding of the fuller picture of Chinese investments in Southeast Asia is necessary for those seeking to understand its significance and impacts. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) is not a new player in this game, having had a longer history of providing investment and aid in this region, particularly in support of independence struggles and civil and regional conflicts during the Cold War. After 1990 and reflecting Beijing’s economic reform and internationalization strategy, Chinese investment in Southeast Asia picked up gradually across varied sectors. Prior to President Xi Jinping’s unveiling in 2013 of what has come to be called BRI, Southeast Asia had already seen a turning point in the growing significance of Chinese investments during the global financial crisis in 2008/9.

This report is part of a research project that examines China’s investment in Southeast Asia, aiming to provide a regionwide, multi-sectoral analysis that allows comparisons and facilitates policy calibration and focus. In this quantitative report, we present the baseline quantitative survey and analysis of key changes in Chinese investments in Southeast Asian economies over the most recent fifteen years, from 2005 to 2019, for which comparable data is available.

By “investment”, we refer to Chinese investment, project financing, and service provision in the region. The CGIT dataset that our report relies on captures the two key forms of Foreign Direct Investment (mergers and acquisitions, and greenfield investment), as well as other forms of cross-border investment flows associated with Chinese investments in Southeast Asia. Construction contracts, in particular, often accompany Chinese overseas investment and are a form of trade in services that can be even more significant than FDI.

1.1 Regionwide Trends

Foreign investments in Southeast Asia (SEA) originating from China grew twentyfold during this fifteen-year period. This trend is more marked when we define foreign investments as including both ownership acquisition of specific enterprises, and service provision (such as construction contracts).

Type
Chapter
Information
Chinese Investments in Southeast Asia
Patterns and Significance
, pp. 1 - 38
Publisher: ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute
Print publication year: 2023

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