Global Outlook 2017: Southeast Asia and the U.S.-China dynamic

A map showing ASEAN countries and the other countries included in the proposed RCEP trade deal
With the demise of the TPP free-trade deal, RCEP, which includes China, becomes the only multilateral trade agreement option for Southeast Asian nations (source: macpixxel for GIS)

  • The Philippines and Malaysia have made overtures to Beijing recently
  • Vietnam stands to lose out from the death of the TPP trade deal
  • All of these countries have significant tensions with China
  • None of them will abandon Washington for Beijing, or vice versa
  • Instead, they will continue to carefully engage both global powers

In 2017, the stance of Southeast Asian nations toward the region’s central geopolitical feature – the United States-China rivalry – will be characterized by long-term stability rather than change. Despite uncertainty about the incoming U.S. administration and tensions with Beijing in the South China Sea, the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia will maintain strong ties with Washington while continuing their cautious engagement with China.

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