There is a misconception that the Belt and Road Initiative is a grand economic scheme meant to expand Beijing’s influence in the region by attracting smaller states into the Initiative with abundant financial investment, but ultimately overwhelming them in a “debt trap”. Much attention has been given to China’s geopolitical gains and motives as the chief stakeholder of the Initiative, but there is a significant gap in the understanding of the member countries as stakeholders with their own objectives and strategies, instead assumed to be vulnerable to Beijing’s plans and only hopeful for economic development. This dissertation aims to explain how BRI member states are adept at navigating their own agenda and objectives through these mass scale projects. Rather than economic benefit being their only concern, this paper argues that two variables are more important considerations: the most important being the security factor, and then domestic political climate. When these two factors are aligned with the objectives of the Initiative, projects proceed smoothly and member state governments remain positive about the economic benefits even in the face of growing debt trap controversies, whereas, if the security and domestic political objectives clash with those of the BRI, member countries may remain suspicious and negative even in the absence of debt problems. To present the varying degrees of importance of these three variables, this study constructs a comparative case study of Pakistan, a staunch supporter of BRI since the beginning of its inception, and Malaysia, a member state that has been both positive and critical of the Initiative and Beijing’s intentions, using the theories of balance of threat, and hedging respectively to explain the strategic reasoning behind their perceptions.
|Date of Award||15 Jul 2021|
|Supervisor||Chien-peng CHUNG (Supervisor) & Pok CHU (Co-supervisor)|
- Belt and Road
- Balance of Threat