China advances, US retreats in SEAsia

China advances, US retreats in SEAsia

2017 may have heralded the beginning of a new Sino-centric regional order

China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy soldiers patrol at Woody Island, in the Paracel Archipelago, which is known in China as the Xisha Islands, January 29, 2016. Photo: Reuters/Stringer

China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy soldiers patrol at Woody Island, in the Paracel Archipelago, which is known in China as the Xisha Islands, January 29, 2016. Photo: Reuters/Stringer

In a short time, China has managed not only to divide and rule the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), but also leverage the regional bloc as a de facto shield against its strategic rivals, namely the US, and particularly in relation to the South China Sea disputes.

Back in 2013, then newly-installed Chinese President Xi Jinping launched in a high-profile speech his “peripheral diplomacy” initiative which laid out plans for winning over China’s near neighborhood, no easy task considering Beijing’s often treacherous history in the region.

The initiative was an important recognition of growing regional opposition, aided by Washington’s “pivot” to Asia strategy, to China’s growing maritime assertiveness in adjacent waters.

In particular, the Philippines and Vietnam stepped up their efforts at constraining China’s expanding footprint in the South China Sea, while Japan, Australia and Singapore welcomed America’s promised larger military, and especially naval, presence in the region…..more here

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