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The ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ and ASEAN countries’ responses toward China

  • Korea and Global Affairs
  • Abbr : KGA
  • 2021, 5(1), pp.235-270
  • DOI : 10.22718/kga.2021.5.1.009
  • Publisher : Korea Institute of Politics and Society
  • Research Area : Interdisciplinary Studies > Interdisciplinary Research
  • Received : January 14, 2021
  • Accepted : February 2, 2021
  • Published : February 25, 2021

KIM, Jin Young 1

1부산대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

The paper throws a question whether the ASEAN countries will be under the dominant Chinese influence with the progress of “the Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI). In order to research this question, this study suggests two variables with which to examine the realities of the BRI in ASEAN countries. One is the approach to China by political leaders of ASEAN countries and the political dynamics; The other is restraint and denial of China’s dominance by ASEAN countries. When the realities of BRI in ASEAN countries are examined focusing on the two variables, we can find that the BRI projects are not carried out by the Chinese influence unilaterally. On the contrary, political leaders of the ASEAN countries often accept and adjust the BRI projects according to their economic necessities and conditions, and responding to the political dynamics of their countries. Also, whereas the ASEAN countries continue economic cooperations with China, they try to restrain strengthening political aggressiveness of China in the region. The strategy of pursuing the maximization of economic interests on the one hand and restraining the increase of political dominance on the other hand is called the ‘hedging strategy’. This paper takes two example cases of Malaysia and Myanmar and shows how the political leaders in these countries cancelled and scaled back the BRI projects in the context of the political dynamics, according to their economic conditions. The degree of hedging against Chinese influence varies depending upon countries. Nevertheless we can argue that ASEAN countries accept the BRI projects with the ‘economic pragmatism’ but try to balance out the increasing Chinese political influence and military aggressiveness by cooperating with other Indo-Pacific nations. The latter policy of cooperating with other competing Indo-Pacific countries is a sort of ‘indirect balancing’ strategy. The ASEAN countries want to keep the ‘ASEAN centrality’, refusing to fall under the Chinese dominance.

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