Why US Rivalry with China Will Endure: Implications for Southeast Asia

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Author: Robert Sutter

Affiliation: George Washington University
Organization/Publisher: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute
Date/Place: October 26, 2021/Singapore
Type of Literature: Article
Word Count: 2899

Link: https://www.iseas.edu.sg/articles-commentaries/iseas-perspective/2021-138-why-us-rivalry-with-
china-will-endure-implications-for-southeast-asia-by-robert-sutter/

Keywords: China, USA, ASEAN Countries
Brief:
Despite the many initiatives that the US has made with its partners in Asia, China is still increasing its dominance in Southeast Asia. Geographically, China has more advantages than the US because of its extensive border with Southeast Asia. Moreover, China’s investment in the region has increased significantly over the past decade. In other words, China is becoming the engine of the economy for Southeast Asia. On the other hand, the Biden administration seems that it is still preoccupied with problems at home and damaged with the US’ withdrawal from Afghanistan. That assumption was underlined when the US announced the new and rigorous initiative on September 15th with Australia and the UK that involves the procurement of nuclear submarines and security cooperation in dealing with China. Strategically, the US still holds two strategic centers of gravity in Southeast Asia, which are the Malacca Strait and its alliance with the Philippines in the South China Sea. However, the US is still failing to change the media discourse that China is ascendant and the US in decline. In the same vein, the US-led initiative with Australia and the UK is not receiving support from ASEAN countries—only the Philippines openly supports while other member states are either critical or ambivalent. Finally, the author suggests that the US may approach the strategy that will meet the needs of Southeast Asia and serve Beijing challenges. Nevertheless, with current domestic issues and blowback from the Afghanistan withdrawal, the US will continue to focus on building alliances to counter China.
By: Salman Nugraha, CIGA Research Intern

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