The China-Southeast Asia Economic Corridor is an important component of the BRI and will link Yunnan Province to Singapore. ASEAN members now consider China as the main regional power while the United States’ influence is decreasing. Several projects related to the BRI are being developed in ASEAN. While some are experiencing delays as in Malaysia, others are progressing rapidly, such as the new China-Laos Railway.
China and ASEAN are working together to facilitate exchanges between the two regions, through new infrastructures but also by developing new digital routes. Thus, in Thailand, in the eastern regions, the Chinese group Ali Baba is supporting the construction of a “smart digital hub” to develop digital solutions in the ASEAN. This project responds both to the challenge of strengthening the BRI and to that of the “Thailand 4.0” strategy adopted by Bangkok to develop innovation in the country.
The Belt and Road initiative is giving new impetus to connection projects in South East Asia. In 2016, regional leaders adopted a new master plan of connectivity in the ASEAN. It aims to create the mechanisms for the development of sustainable infrastructures, the strengthening of digital innovation, the creation of seamless logistics, the adoptions of new standards and people mobility. BRI shares the same objectives.
Another program developed by ASEAN is that of the “single window” which consists in developing the electronic exchange of trade-related documents among ASEAN members. Launched in 2018, this program is used by five states (Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam). Bangkok, which chairs ASEAN, is aiming for the other 5 members of the regional association (Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and the Philippines) to join the initiative for the end of the year.
Furthermore, in 2018, thanks to some funding from the Asian Development Bank, a railway line connecting Thailand to Cambodia was rebuilt; regular services will start in spring 2019. The old line was destroyed in 1973. Exchanges will be able to intensify between these two neighbours.
In South-East Asia, the “Belt and Road initiative”, far from being in competition with local programs, is accelerating the integration process within ASEAN.