The Big Ideas

The rivalry between America and China will hinge on South-East Asia
The rivalry between America and China will hinge on South-East Asia
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Southeast Asia: China & the U.S. Battle for China’s Backyard

February 27, 2021
BIG IDEA | ‘In the rivalry between China and America, there will be a main zone of contention: South-East Asia. Of the two competitors, China looks the more likely prize-winner.'
'But China’s bid for hegemony in South-East Asia is thus far from assured. However, as close as South-East Asia’s ties with China appear, they are also fraught. China dismays its neighbours by throwing its weight around militarily. This sort of belligerence makes China unpopular in much of South-East Asia—building, alas, on dismaying traditions of prejudice.'
'South-East Asian governments have no wish to renounce trade with and investment from their prosperous neighbour. But they also want what America wants: peace and stability and a rules-based order in which China does not get its way by dint of sheer heft. Like all middling powers, the big countries of South-East Asia have an incentive to hedge their bets, and see what favours they can extract from the Goliaths of the day.'

My Take

Given the comments in the item above, it’s interesting how again Japan is left out of the mix in this discussion of U.S.-China rivalry in Southeast Asia. But it illustrates how Japan’s low profile masks its crucial role as U.S. ally in countering China in the Indo-Pacific.