The Biden Presidency has ushered in a new era of US-China relations. Both major powers expect intense rivalry on all fronts including military, technology and trade. Where does Southeast Asia stand in this new battle ground? With US and China wooing Southeast Asian countries with vaccine diplomacy, infrastructure investments and economic benefits, Southeast Asia has to carefully navigate their relations with the two great powers.
This resource page aims to provide perspectives and insights on US-China competition and relations with a compilation of related articles by RSIS researchers and webinars organised by RSIS.
Loro Horta, an academic and diplomat from Timor Leste – In recent years, some analysts have referred to the growing rivalry between China and Russia on the one hand, and the United States, on the other, as a new Cold War or a second Cold War. Depicting this great power rivalry as another Cold War will detract from the complexities and strategic implications of the contestation. This can have dire consequences as wrong analogies can lead to wrong policies.
Read more in RSIS Commentary “Are We in a New Cold War?”
Assistant Professor Amrita Jash in the Department of Geopolitics and International Relations at the Manipal Academy of Higher Education (MAHE) in Manipal, India – De-risking has become the new buzzword. Amidst rising tensions with China, the major western powers are opting to de-risk and not de-couple in dealing with China. This makes it imperative to understand: What does it mean to de-risk from China and what are the likely implications of it?
Read more in RSIS Commentary “De-risking from China and Its Implications”
Bilahari Kausikan, current Chairman of the Middle East Institute and former Ambassador to the Russian Federation – Russian aggression against Ukraine and US-China strategic competition have made the world more uncertain and dangerous. But as we grapple with the complexities of Ukraine and the US-China rivalry, it is crucial not to lose the psychological poise needed to put them in proper perspective.
Read more in RSIS Commentary “Navigating Great Power Competition in the 21st Century: Beyond the Cold War Paradigm”
Ford Hart, former US diplomat – A fascination with Sino-American competition distracts from today’s central drama in Asian international relations: China’s emergence as a revisionist great power. Tensions between Washington and Beijing are undoubtedly important, but the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is reshaping behaviour far beyond America. The 20th Shangri-la Dialogue held in Singapore from 2 to 4 June 2023 highlighted the contrast between the seemingly irresistible US-vs-China narrative and the bigger picture in Asian geopolitics – a region-wide rebalancing of power.
Read more in RSIS Commentary “The Forest and the Trees: China, America, and Asian Power Balancing”
Evan Resnick, Senior Associate Fellow – A credibility problem afflicts both the hawkish and dovish US policy options for dealing with an increasingly assertive China. The dilemma facing America is that although China has a higher stake in the territories it presently covets, ceding them to China’s sphere of influence in pursuit of great power peace will alarm US allies in the region.
Read more in RSIS Commentary “Hawks, Doves and US Credibility in East Asia”
Ron Huisken – Years of skirmishing over the rules-based order have given way to a declared challenge from China and Russia to the principles underpinning the present order. The task now is to figure out how to evade the more costly and dangerous potential outcomes and identify the best available basis for stable co-existence.
Read more in RSIS Commentary “Open Season on the Rules-based Order Confirms its Centrality”
Dr Marty Natalegawa, Distinguished Visiting Fellow – Southeast Asia is surrounded by complex power dynamics, competition, and conflict. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has in the past managed the challenges creditably. Yet, the increasingly intense contestation among major powers necessitates renewal of a foresightful approach in maintaining the relevance of ASEAN and in securing its security.
Read more in RSIS Commentary “Securing ASEAN’s Security Amidst Geopolitical Divides”
Mr Lawrence Anderson, Senior Fellow – The regional security outlook in Asia is mixed. While COVID-19 appears to be under control, recovery is uneven and fragile. The risk of further pandemics, the climate crisis, food security problems, spiralling fuel costs and finance are just some of the transboundary challenges threatening the regional order. They will be with us for years to come. None can be resolved by any one country alone. The deteriorating relationship between China and the US will have a significant impact on the role ASEAN can play to promote regional stability and prosperity.
Read more in RSIS Commentary “US-China Strategic Competition and ASEAN’s Regional Challenges”
Professor L. Marvin Overby and Research Fellow Adrian Ang U-Jin – President Joe Biden and the Democratic Party defied strong political headwinds and expectations in the midterm elections to retain control of the Senate and lose the House of Representatives only narrowly. The results indicate that the US might be past peak Trumpism and that the bipartisan consensus on competition with China will be preserved despite divided government in the next two years.
Read more in RSIS Commentary “Observations and Foreign Policy Implications of the 2022 American Midterm Elections”
P. S. Suryanarayana, Adjunct Senior Fellow – Xi Jinping has secured an unprecedented third term as General Secretary of the Communist Party of China. This will intensify India’s foreign policy challenges as underscored by Beijing’s quick prioritisation of enhancing ties with Islamabad and recently cool attitude towards resuming summit-level diplomatic and political engagement with New Delhi.
Read more in RSIS Commentary “New Era Under Xi Jinping: Challenges for India”
Assistant Professor Stefanie Kam – As Xi Jinping secures a historic third term at the 20ᵗʰ Party Congress, China’s foreign policy objectives in the years ahead will be driven by economic, political and security initiatives shaped by both domestic and international political determinants.
Read more in RSIS Commentary “Economic, Political and Security Imperatives in Xi Jinping’s Third Term”
Assistant Professor Kaewkamol Pitakdumrongkit – the US-led Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF) has been launched. It seems well-received by several regional economies. Nevertheless, the IPEF will face several challenges, triggering questions of whether and how the US will be able to advance it. Three member states of ASEAN have not been included, and there is no collective ASEAN position on it.
Read more in RSIS Commentary “The Indo-Pacific Economic Framework: Can the US Pull It Off?”
P. S. Suryanarayana, Adjunct Senior Fellow President Joe Biden’s Indo-Pacific Strategy is aimed at supporting India’s continued rise as one part of the action plan. Far from counting it as a windfall gain, Delhi may have to deal with the likely complications in its policy towards China. Washington’s
Read more in RSIS Commentary “Biden’s Indo-Pacific Strategy – Reality Check for India’s China Policy“
Henrick Tsjeng, Associate Research Fellow at IDSS, wrote that China’s vision for regional cooperation with Southeast Asia is to create a “friendly backyard” which can best serve its geopolitical interests. However, ASEAN’s response has been divided, and with the reality of the China-United States rivalry in the region, China’s vision will not be realised in the short to medium term.
Read more in RSIS Commentary “China’s ‘Friendly Backyard’ Vision: Can It Win Over SE Asia?”
Hannah Sworn, Senior Analyst at RSIS, wrote that President Joe Biden’s recent comments regarding Taiwan do not depart from Washington’s longstanding policy of strategic ambiguity, but rather reflect its adaptation to balance Chinese actions in the Taiwan Strait.
Read more in RSIS Commentary “Strategic Ambiguity: Alive and Well”
Amanda Trea Phua, Senior Analyst at IDSS, wrote that AUKUS has triggered divided opinions in Southeast Asia. ASEAN has not been able to establish a clear consensus on the new trilateral pact. More diplomatic spadework needs to be done.
Read more in RSIS Commentary “AUKUS: ASEAN’s Hesitant Response”
Cung Vu, Visiting Senior Fellow at RSIS, discussed observations of the US losing the technological and innovation edge to China.
Read more in RSIS Commentary “Technology and Innovation Race: US Losing Edge to China?”
Loro Horta, diplomat from Timor Leste, wrote that several senior US officials have warned that China was becoming a serious nuclear threat. A closer scrutiny reveals a far more complex reality about China’s nuclear capacity.
Read more in RSIS Commentary “AUKUS: China’s Nuclear Build Up”
Loro Horta, diplomat from Timor Leste, wrote that after nearly 20 years of war, more than US$2 trillion spent and 240,000 deaths including 2,312 US military personnel, the United States is withdrawing from Afghanistan with very little to show for its massive investment. China, on the other hand, seems to have made inroads and possibly secured its interests.
Read more in RSIS Commentary: “US Afghan Withdrawal: Enter China and Taliban?”
Benjamin Ho, Assistant Professor with the China Programme at RSIS, wrote that as the Biden administration continues its diplomatic pressure on China, Beijing is likely to further harden its stance in response to what it perceives as a Western United Front against it. As the spectre of alliance politics emerges as the next frontier in major power competition, what would ASEAN’s stance be?
Read more in RSIS Commentary “Biden-Xi: Emerging Clash of the United Fronts?”
Adam Garfinkle, non-resident Distinguished Fellow at RSIS, wrote that the Sinocentric era in US foreign policy has truly begun, with the first face-to-face White House visits of the Biden administration from the leaders of two Asian security treaty allies: the prime minister of Japan and the president of South Korea.
Read more in RSIS Commentary “Two Summits: Enter the US’ Sinocentric Era”
Loro Horta, diplomat from Timor Leste, wrote that Portugal has in the past decade developed very lucrative relations with China. Chinese investment significantly assisted its recovery from the 2008 global economic crisis. However, Lisbon’s increasingly close ties with Beijing have raised serious concerns in Washington.
Read more in RSIS Commentary “Portugal: Stuck Between Two Giants”
Christopher Cheang, Senior Fellow at RSIS, wrote that Russia and China, already close, appear to be getting even closer as Moscow seeks to forge a relationship with US President Biden.
Read more in RSIS Commentary “Putin-Biden Summit: China’s Shadow Looms Large”
Frederick Kliem, Research Fellow at RSIS, wrote that the European Union (EU) has just concluded a first draft of its long-expected Indo-Pacific strategy. While criticism is plentiful, EU policy can have a meaningful impact.
Read more in RSIS Commentary “EU Indo-Pacific Strategy: More than Meets the Eye“
Last updated on 20/09/2023