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Limits of Chinese Power in Southeast Asia

Updated On: Apr 26, 2011
Common economic goals enable trade cooperation, but China’s tough line on territorial disputes worries the region
Evelyn Goh
YaleGlobal , 26 April 2011
East Asia Forum, 10 May 2011
LONDON: That China is one of the most powerful states in the world is no longer a contested claim, but cataloging China’s increasing material resources does not in itself demonstrate that China is powerful. A more telling question is how effectively does China convert its growing resources into influence over other states’ strategic choices and the outcomes of events?
Southeast Asia presents an apparently “easy” case for investigating China’s rising power. Given the significant asymmetry of power, if China’s power has indeed grown, we would expect to see altered preferences and behavior of these weaker neighbors in response to coercion, persuasion or inducement from China. Results so far are mixed. While China has been able to harness much of the region’s economic energy in a favorable direction, it does get its way in territorial and resource conflicts.