A Disappointing Harvest: China’s Opium Replacement Investments in Northern Myanmar Since 2009

The launch of the ‘Going Out’ strategy in 1999 precipitated more than a decade of rapid growth in Chinese outbound investment activity. From trivial levels in the late 1990s, Chinese outbound foreign direct investment (FDI) reached US$20 billion in 2006 before surging up to US$196 billion in 2016, according to data from the Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM 2017; MOFCOM et al. 2007). The past several years, however, have seen China’s first major FDI retrenchment in the post–Going Out era, with MOFCOM-reported outbound FDI volumes down to US$137 billion in 2019 (MOFCOM 2020).

Much commentary on this shift has focused on the decline in outbound infrastructure investment and lending. Boston University’s Global Development Policy Center, for instance, reported, as of May 2021, a roughly 95 per cent drop in its database of lending commitments by China’s two major policy banks to governments, intergovernmental bodies, and state-owned entities between 2016 (US$75 billion) and 2019 (US$3.9 million) (Ray et al. 2021). More than half of the commitments in its dataset from 2008 to 2019 were for infrastructure projects (Ray and Simmons 2020). Large-scale infrastructure projects represent some of the most visible and well-publicised forms of Chinese outbound investment, with national-level government-to-government coordination, high project costs, and the involvement of China’s largest state-owned enterprises (SOEs) …

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Edmund Downie

Edmund Downie is a Non-Resident Fellow at the Columbia University SIPA Center on Global Energy Policy. He was a Fulbright Scholar in Kunming, Yunnan in 2017-18 studying Chinese trade and investment with Southeast Asia in energy and agriculture. He will enter the Princeton University School of Public and International Affairs as a PhD student in Public Affairs in the fall of 2021.

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