Chinese investment in Southeast Asia is nothing to fear

Chinese investment in Southeast Asia is nothing to fear

  • More optimistic future for region than the fuss about Chinese investment suggests

Is China “buying up” Southeast Asia? Since Beijing boasts the world’s
second-biggest economy and is the largest trade partner of many of the
region’s economies, this question unsettles onlookers across the world, from
Washington’s Capitol Hill to Metro Manila’s jeepney drivers.

Implicit is the understanding that China’s growing economic role in Southeast
Asia is an extension of its unquenchable political ambition. Hawkish U.S.
policymakers, for instance, are warning Southeast Asian states that Chinese
money is spreading values antithetical to democracy.

Instead of fearing China’s economic rise, however, the countries of the
Association of Southeast Asian Nations should stop worrying about Beijing
and focus on managing and redirecting Chinese money toward
growth-enhancing initiatives.

For a start, Chinese involvement in Southeast Asia’s economies is much lower
than is generally thought. Statistics provided by ASEANstats shows that
Chinese foreign direct investment not only trails other major investors but is
narrowly focused on sectors that have lower multiplier effects on host
economies.