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Southeast Asia’s energy development and environmental sustainability are at a crossroads with China at its center. Over the past decade, China has emerged as a leading energy investor/financier in Southeast Asia with an energy footprint in the region that has continued to grow since Beijing launched the high-profile Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in 2013. While BRI aims to promote energy infrastructure development that helps Southeast Asian countries achieve high economic growth, Beijing has pledged to do so through an environmentally responsible approach, issuing dozens of policy initiatives in Southeast Asia and beyond to promote a ‘Green BRI’ and implement the idea of ‘environmental developmentalism.’ How and to what extent has China achieved this green development goal? How have Chinese investors/financiers, under the banner of BRI, contributed to current and future energy development in Southeast Asia? What environmental challenges have Chinese energy investments brought to the region? Is China’s green BRI strategy effective in addressing those challenges? My project assesses these questions through a study of 1) China’s current and upcoming investments across various power generation sectors in Southeast Asia; 2) China’s BRI-related political and financial apparatus in fulfilling environmental sustainability mandates; and 3) China’s recent multilateral initiatives related to energy and environmental sustainability in Southeast Asia. The project aims to provide a birds-eye view of China’s financial and policy influence on Southeast Asia’s energy development since 2013 as well as a critical examination of China’s ‘environmental developmentalism.’
Jessica C. Liao is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at North Carolina State University (NC State). Her research focuses on international political economy and security of East Asia. Her current research addresses China and Japan’s economic statecraft competition and infrastructure development in Southeast Asia, and their social environmental implications to the region. She is the author of Developmental States and Business Activism (Palgrave 2016) and her publications appear on journals including The Pacific Review, Journal of Contemporary China, and Asian Survey. She received her PhD in political science from the University of Southern California, and her MA in Asia-Pacific and China Studies from National Sun Yat-Sen University.