Chinese Expansion and the Future of Southeast Asia
The story of the world’s most audacious infrastructure project.
A decade ago, China did not have a single high-speed train in service. Today, it owns a network of over 14,000 miles of high-speed rail, far more than the rest of the world combined. Now China is pushing its tracks into Southeast Asia, reviving a century-old colonial fantasy of an imperial railroad stretching to Singapore and kicking off a key piece of the One Belt One Road initiative, which has a price tag of $1 trillion and reaches inside the borders of more than 60 countries.
The Pan-Asia Railway portion of One Belt One Road could transform Southeast Asia, bringing new cities, economies, and migrants to places where none existed before. But if it doesn’t succeed, that would be a cautionary tale about whether a new superpower, with levels of global authority unimaginable just a decade ago, can pull entire regions into its orbit simply with tracks, sweat, and lots of money. Journalist Will Doig traveled to Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore to chronicle the dramatic transformations taking place—and the ordinary people caught up in this moment of economic, political, and cultural collision.