Publication Date



Open access

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


International Studies (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Richard Grant

Second Committee Member

Han Li

Third Committee Member

Bryan Page


This thesis aims to analyze China’s Belt and Road Initiative in Southeast Asia from a perspective that does not privilege the interests of any particular nation. This paper lays out three essential aspects of the BRI: the motivation that drives China to invest in Southeast Asia, the strategy that China implements in the region, and the challenges that China faces going forward with the program. Through the analysis of specific projects across the Southeast Asian region, this thesis discusses the underlying factors that influence the projects’ status and type in various countries. It also discusses the domestic Chinese motivations for this project, which often differ from the needs and problems of the countries they engage with. Some of China’s strategies include building the essential infrastructure; utilizing the BRI to solve political problems including territorial disputes; and exporting Chinese standards by helping the regional countries with railways. There are also specific problems faced by China as they look to develop the region. For instance, political upheaval, funding issues, and military security raise concerns for the Chinese as they invest. One potential upside of the BRI is an increased engagement in international commerce and competition for the less-developed countries involved in the project. This thesis achieves this unique analysis by combining the viewpoints of both the West and China, who offer differing insights into the nature of the BRI.


Belt and Road Initiative; China; Southeast Asia