As China grows more powerful, it is challenging America’s decades-long dominance of Southeast Asia. As New York Times reported, most countries are either leaning towards China or playing both sides to their advantage.
Even staunch U.S. allies are increasingly orienting towards China, namely in terms of commercial ties: every Asian country now trades more with China than the U.S., often by a factor of two to one, an imbalance that will only widen as China’s economic growth outpaces that of America’s.
Nevertheless, many of the 20 countries caught between the two powers do not want to choose sides, instead opting to pursue “strategies intended to draw maximum benefit from both powers, minimize risks of angering either and preserve their independence”. This is far from the clean lines drawn between the Americans and Soviets in Cold War-era Europe.