The Malaysian newspaper The Star says that China has invested over $50 billion to improve conditions in countries along the Belt and Road between 2014 and 2016, including Malaysia.
The Belt and Road is an initiative developed by China’s current President Xi Jinping in 2013, to boost “a new era of globalization” through infrastructures like ports, railways, pipelines, etc., to connect countries in Asia and beyond in pursuit of economic growth. According to rating agency Fitch, China’s government is planning to invest a total of $900bn in these building projects.
Malaysia is one of the main beneficiaries of the plan, and one of the largest investments will go to East Coast Rail Link (ECRL), which will connect in a first phase Wakaf Baru in Kelantan to the Integrated Transport Terminal Gombak. The second phase will join Port Klang (88 km).
The ECRL will reduce the travel time for cargo that will be shipped through the Port of Singapore, but at a higher cost.
The Star indicates that Chinese companies will be investing US$7.2bil in the Melaka Gateway, US$2.8bil in the Kuala Linggi Port, US$1.4bil in Penang Port and US$177mil in the Kuantan Port projects.
The new Melaka port will become a liquid cargo terminal with storage facilities, but also will be a container terminal, break-bulk and dry bulk terminal, shipbuilding and repair services, maritime industrial park and port logistics services.
Despite all the investment, the creation of jobs and the development of economic activities that these projects represent, some experts have expressed their concern about such a strong Chinese presence over South Asian countries. “It is also rather controversial with continuing issues over territorial sovereignty and over China’s economic strength and its resources needs,” said Jing Gu, an expert at the Institute of Development Studies at Sussex University in an article published by the Financial Times.