Southeast Asia is home to many of China’s most high-profile Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) projects, including Kyakpyu port in Myanmar, a high-speed railway in northern Laos, and now-stalled rail and pipeline projects in Malaysia. While these physical infrastructure projects have attracted widespread attention, China’s involvement in the region’s digital infrastructure has been far less examined despite holding the potential to have even greater strategic importance in the coming years.
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Launched in 2013, China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) strives to improve infrastructure, trade, financial integration, and people-to-people bonds across more than 80 countries. Its digital dimensions are far-reaching, including fiber optic cables, 5G networks, satellites, and devices that connect to these systems. On February 5th, the CSIS Reconnecting Asia Project hosted a discussion about these developments and their implications for U.S. economic and strategic interests.