There is no shortage of analysis on China’s Maritime Silk Road (MSR), a developmental strategy designed to increase infrastructure capacity and linkages across Southeast Asia, Oceania, and the Indian Ocean. Nonetheless, these works assume that China’s military and financial might will inundate smaller host states into accepting these projects. While useful at the macro-level, this perspective ignores the heterogeneity and capacity of actors within the state to shape outcomes. I examine China’s attempted investments in Manila’s Harbour Centre Port Terminal, Consolacion in Cebu, and Davao Sasa. In recent years, China negotiated the financing of these three ports yet have failed in all of the attempts despite the support of Rodrigo Duterte’s Beijing-friendly government. I argue that the success or failure of foreign capital projects depends on the distributionary impact of these ventures. Projects that generate symmetric distribution on the relevant host state partners lead to an investment coalition that protects the project. Projects with unequal distributionary impact intensifies opposition, delaying or modifying the foreign funder’s design and intentions.
About the Speaker
Alvin Camba is a PhD Candidate at the Johns Hopkins University and a pre-doctoral fellow at the Global Development Policy Center at Boston University. He uses mixed-methods approaches to derive the determinants and impact of Chinese foreign direct investment. He has been awarded multiple best graduate research paper awards by the American Sociological Association (ASA), published in several SSCI journals (Journal of Agrarian Change, Palgrave Communications, etc.), and written for various policy platforms or media organizations (The New Mandala, East Asia Forum, and South China Morning Post). He’s currently co-authoring a book on China’s Belt and Road Initiative in South and Southeast Asia.