US and Australia Are Building Credibility With Southeast Asian Countries to Balance China's Strength
- Published: 11 September 2019
- The US and Australia are building credibility with Southeast Asian countries to balance China's strength in the South China Sea
There’s a credibility problem in the South China Sea. When ASEAN states consider China’s commitment to dominating maritime Southeast Asia, its capability and the risks it’s willing to take, they undoubtedly come up with a pretty clear-eyed assessment. It’s knowledge won through painful experience.
ASEAN states also know that opposing Beijing too strongly will bring punishment, while conformity can bring rewards. And they have a good deal of certainty that China’s strategic intent won’t be changing anytime soon.
They don’t, however, share similar confidence in America’s commitment to upholding a ‘free and open Indo-Pacific’. The failure of the pivot to Asia, the derailment of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, President Donald Trump’s transactional approach to international relationships, resource challenges in Asia and growing strategic distractions all help to reduce America’s credibility in the eyes of ASEAN states. And from their position on the frontline of China’s rise, they know that American talk is cheap.
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