China’s Economic Leverage in Southeast Asia

The article seeks to offer some explanation for China’s incapacity to translate its supposed economic clout and importance into strategic leverage at America’s expense. Analysis of the economic relationship between China and key Southeast Asian countries reveals that these economic partners are not as dependent on the Chinese economy as rising trade numbers suggest. Indeed, one should not overestimate the role of China in driving prosperity in the region, or assume that China has emerged as the primary driver of prosperity in the region. In reality, advanced economies and firms from those economies such as America’s remain far more important to major Southeast Asian countries than does the Chinese economy and Chinese firms. Such a situation is likely to persist into the foreseeable future, meaning that America’s economic capacity to seduce Southeast Asian governments and firms will remain robust and possibly even decisive.

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