AUSSIE ANALYST URGES BIDEN NOT TO LET ASEAN BECOME CHINA FIEFDOM
The US under President Joseph Biden needs a more consistent and intensive commitment to the region, one that values Southeast Asian nations for their own sake, not simply as chess pieces in the new great game, Australian analyst Richard Maude argued in an opinion piece for the South China Morning Post (SCMP).
“Southeast Asian leaders are focused above all on economic recovery and look to China to drive growth. While Southeast Asian governments worry quietly about China’s growing sway, most worry even more about the US-China strategic rivalry. However, Southeast Asian governments do not want to be left on their own with China. A reinvigorated US diplomatic strategy, one that encompasses competition with China while valuing Southeast Asian partnerships in their own right, would be welcomed across the region,” he argued.
Equally, US foreign policy in Southeast Asia must encompass the reality of China’s economic pull. Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong speaks for the region when he says it “cannot afford to alienate China” and that “other Asian countries will try their best not to let any single dispute dominate their overall relationships with Beijing.”
“Neither is there any point in expecting any Southeast Asian country – even Vietnam – to play an overt role in a balancing strategy against China. Southeast Asia will not be like Northeast or South Asia, where Japan and India are regional poles in the US Indo-Pacific strategy. Faced with these enduring realities, the United States should not waste diplomatic capital trying to win Southeast Asia to its side. Rather, the objective should be to keep Asean safely in the middle. The US needs a more consistent and intensive commitment to the region, one that values Southeast Asian nations for their own sake, not simply as chess pieces in the new great game,” Maude explained.