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China's Rise in Southeast Asia: Implications for Japan and the United States

Author: Elizabeth C. Economy, C.V. Starr Senior Fellow and Director for Asia Studies
October 10, 2005
Japan Focus


As China rises to the position of a major economic power in Asia, it is taking an increasingly active role in international politics. This is particularly apparent in Southeast Asia, where Chinese officials are starting to compete with their Japanese and American counterparts, the traditional regional powers, for dominance. US policy towards Southeast Asia – “a policy of relative neglect,” according to author Elizabeth economy – only exacerbates the situation. In this article, adapted from a previous version in the August 2005 Journal of Contemporary China, Economy considers three possible outcomes for Southeast Asia, as China emerges as a hegemonic power. She contends that even with its current tarnished reputation in the region, the US remains a crucial force for security, democracy, and human rights, as well as an important trade partner. “While China is in no position to displace either the United States or Japan,” she concludes, “China's greater presence and activism suggest at the very least that the United States and Japan cannot remain complacent about the status quo that has governed political, economic and security relations for the past few decades.”

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