There are arguments that China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) poses more challenges and threats than opportunities for Singapore.
First of all, BRI aims to enhance inland transportation, mostly by train, from China to mid-Asia and Europe, as well as enlarge the scale of pipeline networks. This will divert a significant amount of seaborne trading volume, originally transported via the Strait of Malacca, indirectly hurting the interests of Singapore.
One geo-economic rationale behind the “Maritime Silk Road” (MSR) relates to China’s Malacca dilemma. The term refers to China’s over-reliance on energy imports transiting the Strait of Malacca. Over 80 per cent of Chinese maritime oil imports and 30 per cent of natural gas imports have to pass through the Strait of Malacca. To buttress its energy security, China is determined to circumvent this route by developing more reliable alternative land and maritime routes for energy imports along the Belt and Road.
For example, China is again seeking influence in Malaysia as it spreads its economic clout through Southeast Asia. It is investing $7.2bn in a redevelopment project that will see Malacca become a new deep sea port. The MSR initiative allows China to explore alternatives for its seaborne trade stop, currently located in Singapore.