Despite growing interest in how the emerging blue economy affects coastal livelihoods, there is a lack of understanding of Chinese investment in this context. This study explores ongoing practices of Chinese maritime investment in ASEAN countries and emerging patterns of the interaction between Chinese investment and coastal livelihoods. We reviewed the literature on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to create a framework for assessing the challenges and opportunities of Chinese maritime investments under the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road (MSR) as part of the BRI. Examining primary and secondary sources, we outlined Chinese maritime investment in the areas of fisheries and mariculture, and tourism, and reviewed challenges and opportunities to coastal livelihoods within our framework. While offering economic opportunities, including jobs, it has presented challenges for distributing benefits of maritime investments to local residents.