Photo Credit: china.org.cn
Economy, Investment and Trade
Thailand rejects China’s loan terms on railway project
(14 August 2017) Thailand rejected China’s loan terms for the Sino-Thai high speed train citing Beijing’s unfair interest rates. According to Thailand’s Minister of Transport Arkhom Termpittayapaisith, China stipulates that the Thai government’s assets are to be seized if they are unable to pay the debts. The Thai government is asking for lower interest rates and is considering the option of taking a loan from the global financial markets as they are cheaper. Thailand is proposing to borrow approximately 25% of the total project cost as negotiations between the two countries continue.
India to build roads connecting to neighbouring countries
(9 August 2017) India is attempting to counter China’s Belt and Road Initiative by connecting itself via road networks, to its neighbouring countries. According to India’s former roads secretary Vijay Chhibber, New Delhi has proposed to further extend the Myanmar-Thailand link to Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam improve the country’s connectivity to its ASEAN neighbours. In July, India approved US$256 million to upgrade the roads in remote areas and the National Highways & Infrastructure Development Corp has given out US$4.7 billion worth of contracts in the past two years and the highway through Myanmar and Thailand was among the projects funded.
China counters speculation on South China Sea
(13 August 2017) China claimed that the South China Sea situation is stable and China and ASEAN were able to effectively cooperate o controversial issues. According to Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, countries which are not directly involved in the issue are unwilling to see peace in the South China Sea as it does not conform to the interests of these countries. In a Joint Statement issued by the foreign ministers of United States, Japan and Australia, the countries said that China and the Philippines have to abide by the Arbitral Tribunal’s 2016 Award in the Philippines-China arbitration as it is final and legally binding.
Philippines denies claims on being China’s spokesperson
(12 August 2017) The Philippines denies claims that the country is becoming China’s spokesperson within the ASEAN community. These claims arose when the Philippines Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said that land reclamation and militarisation should not be incorporated into an ASEAN communiqué, a stand taken by China which later raised tension among ASEAN community members. President Duterte’s spokesman Undersecretary Ernesto Abella said the reports were over-interpreting the moves of the Philippines government and added that the Philippines as the Chair of ASEAN, created a communiqué which was acceptable for all ASEAN members.
Beijing attempts to win support through Malaysian railway project
(11 August 2017) Beijing is attempting to win support from key Southeast Asian nations through a multibillion-dollar railway project in Malaysia, a key part in China’s Belt and Road Initiative. The US$13 billion East Coast Rail Line linking the east and west regions of Malaysia was launched by Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and Chinese State Councillor Wang Yong has led to speculations that it may alter the current trade route which is through the Straits of Malacca and the South China Sea via the Port of Singapore. The controversial railway project also raised concern on China’s expansion of its soft power as it needs allies among the regional countries.