ASEAN is vital for China, and they should know better

Challenges and Recommendations to Consider

However, it is important to note that the broader ASEAN-China relations will face several major challenges in the future.

  1. Southeast Asian countries are increasingly concerned about the so-called “Debt Trap”. Seeing the examples in other parts of the world, but notably Sri Lanka, Southeast Asian countries clearly do not want to face the same problem. While the Chinese have long been arguing that instead because of Chinese investment, Sri Lanka for example was “trapped” because of the mismanagement in its own government, besides other domestic flaws. To build a stronger case, the Chinese should prove that it is not because of the Chinese. One way to do this is to publish an open economic calculation on the impact of Chinese investment and/or to prove that it is indeed because of government mismanagement and domestic flaws instead of due to the Chinese. In other words, China has to embrace transparency in BRI projects.
  2. Singapore’s opposition to Kra Canal, as mentioned before, is another challenge. This is primarily because in ASEAN, member states are trying to build trust and confidence among themselves, and the construction of Kra Canal can undermine this. That being said, China has to prioritize ASEAN centrality when it comes to giving support to infrastructure projects in Southeast Asia.
  3. Vietnam’s hard stance to China is another thing, especially in regards to South China Sea. That being said, China has to give room and space for ASEAN member states to talk among themselves, to take a clear and unified stance. By doing this, China can be seen with more confidence by ASEAN member states. China will not be seen as an aggressive power trying to dominate the region as a regional hegemon. China should and wants to be seen as the partner of the region, and to achieve that, China should indeed act as a partner to the region, not as a power that undermines regional integration, ASEAN centrality, and mutual-trust as well as confidence among countries in the region.

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International Relations enthusiast

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Angelo Wijaya

Angelo Wijaya

International Relations enthusiast