China’s growing digital reach: Explaining citizens’ high approval rates of fintech investments in Southeast Asia
Wiebke Rabe and Genia Kostka – 2022
Recent years have witnessed a rise in global investments in the digital economy. The growing digital reach of Chinese tech companies is responsible for at least part of this transformation. Yet, little is known about how host country citizens view China’s increasing stature in the digital sphere. Focusing on Chinese investments in mobile payment platforms (CIM), this article explains citizens’ levels of approval of Chinese outward investments in the digital economy. Based on online surveys conducted in four selected Southeast Asian countries – Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines – this research shows that citizens of these four countries perceive benefits of CIM to outweigh risks, with approval rates to be higher for Thailand and Malaysia, and lower for Indonesia and the Philippines. We find these high levels of approval for CIM to be significantly associated with perceived personal benefit, such as price reductions, and an increase in purchasing choices. By contrast, country-level factors, such as geopolitical concerns about China, do matter in some contexts, but overall show less explanatory influence. These results shed light on citizens’ views of different types of foreign investments and of China, and support previous arguments on the separation between consumer behavior and politics.