More Charm than Harm: Lessons from China’s Economic Offensive in Southeast Asia

The Chinese are competing very effectively for influence in Southeast Asia. To continue leading in Asia, the United States must demonstrate that its concerns about security and geopolitical competition with China are not going to upset ASEAN’s economic applecart. Concerns in the region about China’s defense capabilities are rooted so distantly in the future that the U.S. role of security guarantor is not enough to substantiate an energetic engagement. What is needed is American free trade leadership. The U.S. must be at the ASEAN table, but it must also bring something tangible.

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