Browse > Article

In the middle of a perfect storm: political risks of the Belt and Road project at Kyaukphyu, Myanmar  

Morris, David (Corvinus University of Budapest)
Publication Information
Journal of Contemporary Eastern Asia / v.20, no.2, 2021 , pp. 210-236 More about this Journal
China's Belt and Road Initiative infrastructure connectivity and other projects are presented in much of the discourse as a grand strategy to trap developing nations in debt, to exert asymmetric power and construct a new world economic order. The asymmetric relationship between China and Myanmar might therefore be expected to generate a range of political risks for stakeholders. Myanmar itself presents a "perfect storm" of problems, with dysfunctional governance, civil conflict, under-development and growing economic dependence on China. The Kyaukphyu port project and associated Special Economic Zone in Myanmar's troubled Rakhine state is investigated as a case study of risks on the Belt and Road. While worst case fears China might seize military control of the port appear unlikely, at least in current conditions, empirical observation indicates the complexity on the ground generates an array of other risks - as well as opportunities, should conditions allow. Further, despite challenges and constrained capacity, Myanmar governments have demonstrated agency, including by re-negotiating control and costs of the Kyaukphyu project. The case underlines that conditions are more complicated than simply China's asymmetric power. A sceptical approach is taken to normative discourses in order to build inductive understanding of how stakeholders and local experts perceive dynamics underway. A political risk approach is deployed to develop a framework to identify, analyse and assess risks for actors in relation to the Kyaukphyu project. The research findings are presented on an interim basis, given current constraints on field interviews due to the current crisis.
Political risk; Myanmar; China; Belt and Road Initiative;
Citations & Related Records
연도 인용수 순위
  • Reference
1 Pence, M. (2018). Vice President Mike Pence's remarks on the administration's policy towards China. In: The Hudson Institute. Retrieved from
2 Po, S., & Primiano, C. (2021). Explaining China's Lancang-Mekong cooperation as an institutional balancing strategy: dragon guarding the water. Australian Journal of International Affairs. Retrieved from
3 Raby, G. (2020). China's Grand Strategy and Australia's Future in the New Global Order. Carlton, Victoria: Melbourne University Press
4 Russel, D., & Berger, B. (2019). Navigating the Belt and Road Initiative. Asia Society Policy Institute. Retrieved from
5 McMaster, H. (2020). Battlegrounds: the fight to defend the free world. New York, NY: Harper
6 Mearsheimer, J. (2014). The tragedy of great power politics. New York, NY: W.W. Norton
7 Myers, L. (2020). The China-Myanmar Economic Corridor and China's Determination to See It Through. Wilson Center. Retrieved from
8 Brenner, D., & Schulman, S. (2019). Myanmar's top-down transition: challenges for civil society. Institute of Development Studies Bulletin, 50 (3). Retrieved from
9 Kardon, I. (2020). Testimony before the U.S. - China Economic and Security Review Commission. Retrieved from
10 Nan, L. (2019, May 31). Gov't spells out conditions for signing BRI deals with China. The Irrawaddy. Retrieved from
11 Hart, M., & Johnson, B. (2019). Mapping China's global governance ambitions. Retrieved from
12 Zhou, L. (2021, January 12). China promises to support Myanmar peace talks with rebel groups. South China Morning Post. Retrieved from
13 Ng, T. (2021, April 5). Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi warns Asean to be alert to external forces interfering in Myanmar. South China Morning Post. Retrieved from
14 Fagersten, B. (2015). Political risk and the commercial sector - aligning theory and practice. Risk Management, 17(1).
15 Feigenbaum, E. (2017). Risky business, Chinese style. Retrieved from
16 Fitzpatrick, M. (1983). The definition and assessment of political risk in international business: a review of the literature. The Academy of Management Review, 8(2), 249-254. Retrieved from   DOI
17 Frankopan, P. (2015) The silk roads: A new history of the world. London, UK: Bloomsbury
18 Ghiasy, R., Su, F. & Saalman, L. (2018). The 21st Century Maritime Silk Road: Security implications and ways forward for the European Union. Stockholm International Peace Research Institute/Friedrich Ebert Stiftung. Retrieved from
19 Jensen, N. (2002). Economic Reform, State Capture, and International Investment in Transition Economies. Journal of International Development, 14: 973-977.   DOI
20 Kobrin, S. (1979). Political risk: a review and reconsideration. Journal of International Business Studies, 10, 67-80.   DOI
21 Lo, N. (2019). Trouble for Belt and Road in Myanmar. China Dialogue. Retrieved from:
22 State Council of the People's Republic of China. (2015). Action plan on the Belt and Road Initiative. Retrieved from
23 Sautmann, B. (2019, May 6) The truth about Sri Lanka's Hambantota port, Chinese 'debt traps' and 'asset seizures'. South China Morning Post. Retrieved from
24 Selth, A. (2020). Interpreting Myanmar: a decade of analysis. Canberra, Australia: ANU Press
25 Sheng, J. (2018). Risks of China's 'One Belt, One Road' Initiative. Centre for Banking & Finance Law, Faculty of Law, National University of Singapore, report number CBFL-Rep-1802. Retrieved from
26 Zhang, H. (2019). Beyond 'Debt-Trap Diplomacy': The dissemination of PRC state capitalism. China Brief 19 (1). Retrieved from
27 Stranglo, S. (2021). Chinese High-Speed Rail Network Reaches Myanmar's Border. The Diplomat. Retrieved from
28 United States Government. (2017). National Security Strategy. Retrieved from
29 Yu, K. (2021). The Belt and Road Initiative in Southeast Asia after COVID-19: China's Energy and Infrastructure Investments in Myanmar. Yusof Ishak Institute. Retrieved from
30 Thant, M-U. (2011). Where China meets India. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
31 Thant, M-U. (2020, January 13). Myanmar must weigh up the extent of its dependence on China. Financial Times. Retrieved from
32 Pascal, K-T. (2002). From the Land of Green Ghosts. New York, NY: HarperCollins
33 Power, C. (2016). Conflicting Perceptions of the AIIB. Australian Outlook. Australian Institute of International Affairs. Retrieved from
34 Ortega, A. (2021). Myanmar and the Oppressive Side of the Digital Revolution. The Globalist. Retrieved from
35 Maliszewska, M., & van der Mensbrugghe, D. (2019). The Belt and Road Initiative: economic, poverty and environmental impacts. World Bank Group, Policy Research Working Paper 8814. Retrieved from
36 Bloomberg & Reuters. (2021, March 15). After attacks on Chinese businesses, Myanmar imposes 'full martial law' in Yangon. South China Morning Post. Retrieved from
37 National Development and Reform Commission, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Commerce of the People's Republic of China. (2015). Vision and actions on jointly building Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st century Maritime Silk Road. Retrieved from
38 Nye, J. (2011). The Future of Power. New York, NY: Public Affairs
39 Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China. (2021, April 3). Wang Yi Talks about "Three Supports" and "Three Avoids" Concerning the Situation in Myanmar. Media Release. Retrieved from
40 Myo, K. (2020). Myanmar's Perspective on Indo-Pacific. Challenges to Peace and Security in South Asia virtual dialogue. Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad and Myanmar Institute of Strategic and International Relations. Retrieved from
41 Popham, P. (2016). The Lady and the Generals: Aung San Suu Kyi and Burma's struggle for freedom. London, UK: Penguin Random House
42 Selth, A. (2007). Burma, China and the Myth of Military Bases. Asian Security 3 (3): 279-307. Retrieved from   DOI
43 Shambaugh, D. (2013). China goes global: the partial power. New York, NY: Oxford University Press
44 Zhang, C., Xiao, C., & Liu, H. (2019). Spatial big data analysis of political risks along the Belt and Road. Sustainability.
45 Kawase, K. (2021, March 4). China worries over rare-earth supply disruption from Myanmar coup. Nikkei Asia. Retrieved from
46 UOB. (2020). The Belt and Road Initiative in ASEAN: Myanmar. United Overseas Bank Hong Kong/Hong Kong University of Science and Technology Institute for Emerging Market Studies. Retrieved from
47 Weerakoon, D. & Jayasuriya, S. (2019). Sri Lanka's debt problem isn't made in China. East Asia Forum. Retrieved from
48 Zhao, I. (2021, January, 24). China is building border walls with Vietnam and Myanmar to keep people out, but also in. ABC News. Retrieved from
49 Lague, D., & Lim, B. (2019). Special report: China's vast fleet is tipping the balance in the Pacific. Reuters. Retrieved from
50 Zenn, Z. (2015). Future scenarios on the new Silk Road: Security, strategy and the SCO. China Brief. Retrieved from
51 Selth, A. (2021). Myanmar's personalised politics. The Interpreter. Lowy Institute. Retrieved from
52 Jensen, N. (2008). Political Risk, Democratic Institutions, and Foreign Direct Investment. The Journal of Politics, 70 (4): 1040-1052.   DOI
53 Development Media Group. (2021, April 20). Border trade begins at Kanyin Chaung economic zone in Maungdaw. Myanmar Peace Monitor. Retrieved from
54 Hillman, J. (2019). Influence and infrastructure: the strategic stakes of foreign projects. Center for Strategic and International Studies. Retrieved from
55 Jagan, L. (2020). Xi's visit establishes sovereign equality in Sino-Myanmar relations. South Asian Monitor. Retrieved from
56 Khin, Z-W. (2020). What lurks beyond the Belt and Road in Myanmar? New Mandala. Retrieved from
57 Kliman, D., Doshi, R., Lee, K., & Cooper, Z. (2019). Grading China's Belt and Road. Center for a New American Security. Retrieved from
58 Kratz, A., Feng, A., & Wright, L. (2019). New Data on the "Debt Trap" Question. Rhodium Group. Retrieved from
59 Macaes, B. (2019). Belt and Road: A Chinese world order. London, UK: C. Hurst
60 Mahbubani, K. (2020). Has China Won? New York, NY: Public Affairs
61 Chellaney, B. (2017). China's Debt Trap Diplomacy. Project Syndicate. Retrieved from
62 Reuters. (2021, April 9). China in touch with 'all parties' in Myanmar, embassy says. Retrieved from
63 Arduino, A., & Gong, X., (Eds.). (2018). Securing the Belt and Road Initiative: risk assessment, private security and special insurances along the new wave of Chinese outbound investments (1st ed.). London, UK: Palgrave Macmillan
64 Brands, H. (2019) China is determined to reshape the globe. Bloomberg. Retrieved from
65 Corporate Responsibility Center. (2021, March 12). Myanmar: anti-China sentiment adds uncertainty to Belt and Road investment projects. Retrieved from
66 Alon, I. (2019). US or China - hard choice awaits Europe. Kaunas University of Technology website. Retrieved from
67 Carroll, T., Hameiri, S. & Jones, L. (eds). (2020). The Political Economy of Southeast Asia: Politics and Uneven Development and Hyperglobalisation. Fourth Edition. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan
68 Deloitte/Shanghai Municipal Commission of Commerce. (2019). Belt and Road Countries Investment Index Report 2018. Retrieved from file:///Users/davidmorris/Downloads/deloitte-bri-2018-belt-and-road-countries-investment-index-report-en-190805.pdf
69 Harper, T. (2017). Towards an Asian Eurasia: Mackinder's heartland theory and the return of China to Eurasia. Cambridge Journal of Eurasian Studies. Retrieved from's_heartland_theory_and_the_return_of_China_to_Eurasia