Global Perspectives on China's Belt and Road Initiative.

AuthorShang-Su, Wu

Global Perspectives on China's Belt and Road Initiative. Edited by Florian Schneider. Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Amsterdam University Press, 2021. Hardcover: 350pp.

China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has received substantial scholarly attention since its inception in 2013. Many studies have naturally approached the BRI from a Chinese perspective, through economic, political or geostrategic lenses. BRI projects, however, are foreign policy instruments which rely on bilateral or even multilateral collaboration, rather than on the will of Beijing alone. China is, furthermore, not a monolithic actor. Agency is thus an important element that should be considered in BRI studies.

In Global Perspectives on China's Belt and Road Initiative, Florian Schneider and the contributors to this edited volume apply the concept of agency to their examination of the various actors involved in BRI projects worldwide. Considerable attention is devoted to seven Southeast Asian countries. In the section on local actors, Chapter Eight studies the Chinese high-speed rail (HSR) project in Indonesia, Chapter Nine focuses on the legitimacy of ruling elites and agency in Laos, Malaysia and Thailand, while Chapter Ten examines China's formal and informal models for implementing BRI projects in Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam.

Chapter Eight, while centred on the Jakarta-Bandung HSR, also comprehensively examines Indonesia-China relations as a whole. Frans-Paul van der Putten and Mirela Petkova note that Indonesia's history, demographics, domestic politics and economics, foreign relations and security concerns have shaped how BRI projects are conducted in Indonesia. Foreign investment in Indonesia, while contributing to the country's economic growth, are still beholden to Jakarta's primary concern: safeguarding the country's sovereignty. Indonesia has thus forbidden China from including any Indonesian ports in the BRI and has placed a ceiling on foreign ownership in the transport sector (pp. 200, 202, 209). These concerns can be attributed to negative perceptions of China, Indonesia's colonial past and its non-aligned foreign policy. China has been mindful of these sensitivities and has, for example, refrained from sending Chinese labourers to work on BRI projects in Indonesia (pp. 205-6). As a result, Beijing's geopolitical influence in Indonesia is marginal. Some important issues, such as land development, land acquisition and other bilateral cooperation issues...

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