china shipping trade Zhang Lei/Featurechina/Ropi/ZumaPress

How China Is Winning Southeast Asia

In only two decades, China has become Southeast Asian countries’ leading economic partner, boosting its influence throughout the region. China’s leaders' constant effort to expand economic cooperation stands in stark contrast to the Americans' approach to the region.

WASHINGTON, DC – With preparations for Chinese President Xi Jinping’s September visit to Washington, DC, underway, officials in both countries are predictably playing down their differences over China’s outsize territorial claims, backed by the construction of military facilities on previously uninhabited islands and atolls, in the South China Sea. And this diplomatic de-escalation, following months of recriminations and veiled threats, suits Southeast Asian leaders just fine.

Of course, no one in Southeast Asia is ignoring China’s strategic designs. The region’s defense spending has increased by more than 50% in the last decade, and some $60 billion has been earmarked for new weapons, especially naval hardware, over the next five years. The white paper on military strategy that China released in May, which touted plans to expand the country’s defense perimeter, intensified neighbors’ concerns, making even more military spending likely. Leaders in the region are now welcoming a stream of US military officials and defense manufacturers to see what America’s Asian “pivot” has to offer.

Beyond new frigates and security guarantees, however, Southeast Asian leaders have refrained from reacting too strongly to China’s offshore ambitions. The economic facts on the ground demand prudence.

To continue reading, please log in or enter your email address.

To access our archive, please log in or register now and read two articles from our archive every month for free. For unlimited access to our archive, as well as to the unrivaled analysis of PS On Point, subscribe now.

required

By proceeding, you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy, which describes the personal data we collect and how we use it.

Log in

http://prosyn.org/aguCWy2;

Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated cookie policy and privacy policy.