“China and Japan in Southeast Asian Infrastructure: Can Rivals be Partners?”

Thursday, June 10, 2021
Thursday, June 10, 2021
1:00 PM
2:00 PM

About the speaker:

Lucio Blanco Pitlo III  is a Research Fellow at the Asia-Pacific Pathways to Progress Foundation. He was a lecturer at the Chinese Studies Program at the Ateneo de Manila University and the International Studies Department at the De La Salle University. He is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Philippine Association for Chinese Studies. He had been a research assistant for various projects on maritime issues and Philippine foreign policy and also worked for the National Coast Watch Council Secretariat. He was a participant in numerous local and regional academic and Track 1.5/2 discussions on geopolitics, security and connectivity issues – subjects he also regularly write about. He obtained his Master of Laws from Peking University and is presently pursuing his MA International Affairs at American University in Washington D.C.   
China and Japan are actively competing for infrastructure projects in Southeast Asia. Yet, despite the rivalry to bag infra projects abroad, both China and Japan also expressed readiness to cooperate. 
Why would China and Japan engage in infra cooperation and what's in it for Southeast Asia? China and Japan are among the world's most active in the global infra space with enormous financial, engineering and construction capacities, established track record and broad portfolio of past and ongoing projects. Both governments are putting their weight behind their companies, and providing credit and support in dealing with foreign governments to corner projects. But stiff competition also entails costs, affect revenues of firms on both sides and possibly lead to overconcentration of projects in countries with more sound economic fundamentals, while leaving fewer resources for less developed infra-deficit countries. 
Cooperation may facilitate better allocation of scarce resources, share risks and reduce costs of competition for both sides. But despite its obvious value, such collaborative foray faces serious constraints, not least of which is the undulating Sino-Japanese ties which casts a long shadow on cooperative endeavors across different domains, including joint infra undertakings. 
With its rapid economic growth, Southeast Asia represents a major frontier for infra investments. In this space, China and Japan compete, but also remain open to collaboration. Regional countries can play off one against the other to get better deals, but they can also marshal resources from both for massive and transformative multi-year projects. 
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