China’s BRI in Southeast Asia: A Tale of Two Railways


About the Webinar

This webinar seeks to better understand how China-financed infrastructure has been implemented and perceived differently in varied local contexts by examining two completed railway projects in Southeast Asia, namely: (i) the Boten-Vientiane (Laos-China) railway; and (ii) the Cat Linh-Ha Dong metro line in Hanoi, Vietnam. The US$6 billion 422-km Laos-China railway took four years to build, passing through difficult natural terrain, and has been hailed as a BRI landmark project. The 13-km Cat Linh-Ha Dong (A2) metro line cost almost US$900 million, took over ten years to complete, and in the process navigated a labyrinth of local technical-legal hurdles and socio-political sensitivities. With numerous problems including cost overrun, delays, safety concerns and public backlash, the A2 line is hardly a success story of China’s infrastructure financing in Vietnam. This webinar examines how the political-institutional contexts in the recipient countries, and the levels of bilateral trust have influenced the outcomes of the two projects, and whether these experiences are exceptional to China, or generally applied to other infrastructure development partners.

About the Speakers

Nick Freeman is an independent consultant who has worked on a range of projects relating to Laos since the mid-1990s, and is a regular visitor to the country. He specialises on issues pertaining to private sector and financial sector development in the transitional economies of Southeast Asia. Nick has worked for a diverse range of clients, including the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, and numerous other bilateral and multilateral development partners. Prior to becoming a consultant, Nick was a Senior Fellow at ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute (where he remains a Visiting Fellow), and was head of Indochina research for ING Barings, based in Bangkok. He holds a PhD in international business, an MA in Southeast Asia studies, and a BA (Hons) in Peace Studies.

Nguyen Xuan Thanh is a senior lecturer in public policy at the Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management, Fulbright University Vietnam. At Fulbright, Thanh teaches macroeconomics, development finance, and project appraisal in the Master in Public Policy program. His current research covers macroeconomic management and infrastructure development. Prior to his academic career, Thanh served as an official in the municipal government of Ho Chi Minh City. He was a member of the Vietnamese Prime Minister Economic Advisory Council from 2018 to 2021.


This webinar will be delivered online entirely. You can join the webinar at the specified date and time using devices (computer, phone, or tablet) with internet connection.

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If you have questions for the speakers, please key in your questions via the Q&A, stating your name and affiliation. The moderator will field them to the speakers during the Q&A session.


Aug 15 2023


3:00 pm - 4:15 pm

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