The Diplomat Despite unresolved territorial and maritime disputes, China seems to attach great importance to its neighborhood diplomacy with ASEAN. In fact, the idea of the Maritime Silk Road, as well as the AIIB, was first announced by President Xi Jinping in a speech to Indonesian parliament in October 2013. By Lucio Blanco Pitlo III
'The ASEAN Master Plan for Connectivity (AMPC) and China’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative
share striking similarities and parallels. Both envisage transport
connectivity as a way to bring member or participating countries closer
to one another, facilitating better access for trade, investment,
tourism and people-to-people exchanges. Like the “One Belt, One Road”
project, AMPC calls for a system of roads and railways to link
contiguous Southeast Asian countries with one another, as well as a
system of ports for RoRo (roll-on roll-off) vessels and short sea
shipping to link insular Southeast Asian countries with one another as
well as with mainland Southeast Asia. Given this shared vision, it is
interesting to consider how the two could complement one another and
what issues could stand in the way.
'China has since 2009 been ASEAN’s biggest trading partner and ASEAN has been China’s third largest trading partner since 2011. Trends indicate that two-way trade will only increase further in the coming years. In 2015 alone, it is expected to hit $500 billion.
And since seamless transportation infrastructure can better spur trade,
plans to enhance connectivity between the two sides is mutually
beneficial. China also puts great emphasis on neighborhood diplomacy,
and extending investments and official development assistance (ODA) to
finance infrastructure projects is one way of winning the support and
goodwill of neighboring developing countries. From this perspective,
then, the convergence of interests is very apparent. However, while
ASEAN and China shared an aspiration of enhancing transport
connectivity, it remains to be seen how compatible AMPC and China’s Silk
Road project really are.'