Southeast Asian Countries Increasingly Supporting China Over US

Amid China’s growing influence and the U.S.’s perceived weakness on the global stage because of President Joe Biden, an increasing number of Southeast Asian countries indicated they would prefer to align with China instead of America.

Statista reported that a survey by the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies determined that a little over 50% of respondents in the ten ASEAN countries would choose China as an ally, while 49.5% would pick the U.S.

ZeroHedge pointed out that such statistics resemble a stark contrast from 2023, when the figures stood at 38.9% and 61.1%, respectively. The outlet noted that such a shift is mostly because of respondents from Laos, Indonesia and Malaysia, who favor China at an increased rate.

In Cambodia, support for China rose by approximately 18 percentage points but remained below 50% overall.

Support for China also increased among countries like Thailand and Myanmar by around 10 percentage points each. In Thailand, such support reached 52%.

Nations that would still prefer the U.S. over China include the Philippines, Vietnam and Singapore.

A senior fellow at the think tank ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute’s ASEAN Studies Centre, Sharon Seah, told Time that the poll demonstrates the difficulty of attributing a unified attitude toward the U.S.-China rivalry.

“Each country maintains its own agency and views on the U.S.-China binary question. Hence, we cannot assume that the region has a united view about China or the U.S.,” Seah said. “Countries apply different calculus to their bilateral relations with each superpower.”

An associate professor of peace and conflict studies at Japan’s Kansai Gaidai University, Mark S. Cogan, told the outlet that the survey results are unsurprising since “ASEAN as an institution is divided and has so many different displays of behavior when it comes to U.S.-China relations.”

Time pointed out that many ASEAN countries have maintained close ties with China, given trade and investments. These nations have also supported the U.S. because of defense partnerships, given their worries about territorial expansion and influence.

As China ramps up its presence and influence in the South China Sea, where it holds territorial disputes with the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia, states in Southeast Asia have begun looking to the U.S. for military support.