Belt and Road, Thailand and Railway Projects

Laurids S. Lauridsen of the Department of Social Sciences and Business at Roskilde University in Denmark has a new article with JCA. “Drivers of China’s Regional Infrastructure Diplomacy: The Case of the Sino-Thai Railway Project” (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2019.1603318).

Reflecting on the broader Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) promoted by China’s President Xi Jinping, the author looks at the country’s efforts to project the BRI into mainland Southeast Asia, where the railway projects in Thailand have been problematic.

The abstract states:

The land-based Silk Road Economic Belt, as a part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, has become central for the country’s economic diplomacy since 2013. As part of these initiatives, Chinese authorities have been keen to expand their high-speed railways across the country’s border into neighbouring countries. Thailand has been one of the front-runners in negotiating high-speed railway projects with China. This article seeks to answer the following questions: what are the driving forces behind the land-based Silk Road Belt; what are the rationales behind the Sino-Thai rail project; and how can the process and outcome of Sino-Thai negotiations be understood? These questions reflect on whether we are witnessing Chinese economic diplomacy to advance commercial and wider economic goals or Chinese economic statecraft to serve foreign policy objectives. Overall, after examining the evidence, the article argues that Silk Road Economic Belt diplomacy and the Sino-Thai rail project are driven predominantly by economic motivations.

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