Because of its outsized growth and essential role in cross-border development, China is expected to assist Southeast Asia in recovering from the economic shocks of COVID-19, analysts stated following a regional summit.
Economists predict that China, which had a $15.4 trillion economy last year, will sell more vaccinations, restart infrastructure projects, and open manufacturing supply chains for the area.
The moves are likely to support China’s efforts to expand its economic and diplomatic clout in the region, including the Belt and Road Initiative and so-called “vaccine diplomacy,” which makes COVID vaccinations available to developing countries.
Many of Southeast Asia’s 660 million people are still dealing with COVID-19 outbreaks and the repercussions of economic inactivity as Western countries begin to recover from the pandemic’s financial effects.
A Chinese spokeswoman hinted on Monday that assistance is on the way ahead of the East Asia Summit meeting of senior officials, which gathered by video conference on Thursday in part to discuss post-pandemic rehabilitation.
Even while other countries across the world experienced economic losses, China’s GDP rose by 2.3 percent last year after rigorous lockdowns limited most of the coronavirus’s spread. The world’s first viral cases were reported in China.
Beijing officials will likely invest abroad in energy transitions for steel, petrochemicals, and other industries aiming to reduce emissions. By 2025, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has set a goal of using renewable energy for 23% of total consumption.
As pandemic containment measures lessen, he continued, projects initiated in Southeast Asia under China’s $1 trillion-plus Belt and Road Initiative could pick up steam. According to the London-based Overseas Development Institute think tank, 15 Belt and Road projects worth a total of $2.4 billion were delayed or hampered by finance issues last year.
COVID-free Malaysia has allowed Chinese firms to invest in real estate, sports, and entertainment throughout Southeast Asia. Indonesia, which is fighting its own pandemic, has received assistance in the form of a dam and a railway line.
After a world arbitration court ruled against China’s maritime claims in 2016, observers claimed Beijing’s economic aid helps it resolve a decades-old dispute over sovereignty in the South China Sea. China has a military and technological advantage over competitor claims Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam in the resource-rich sea.
Meanwhile, Chinese COVID-19 vaccinations have been supplied to over 80 countries, some for emergency use, in a move that some Chinese observers have compared to the United States and European Union’s “me-first” policy.
In Western countries, the Belt and Road Initiative is considered an attempt to dethrone the United States as the region’s dominating force. President Joe Biden of the United States and other G-7 leaders responded by introducing the Build Back Better World Partnership to address infrastructure needs in low- and middle-income nations earlier this month.
Belt-and-Road projects provide a steady stream of work for large Chinese contractors while also facilitating trade. China is also reliant on manufactured goods from Vietnam, a Southeast Asian manufacturing powerhouse that has remained unaffected by the pandemic.
At the East Asia Summit, prominent authorities discussed regional and international issues, particularly COVID-19 and the post-pandemic recovery. On June 29, China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will host a second online session for officials.