Malaysia, March 21, 2015: a group photo of Asean countries’ finance ministers who met in Kuala Lumpur to discuss how to speed up the process of forming the Asean Economic Community (source: dpa)

Southeast Asia’s tangled web of economic ties may help limit China’s sway

Now that China is Southeast Asia’s top trading partner, many argue that a new alignment of power is emerging. Certainly, increased trade has helped transform perceptions of Chinese influence in the region from negative to relatively positive. But there is little risk of a China-centred trade bloc materialising. The biggest reason for this is the diversity of economic interaction, which key players in the neighbourhood – especially the United States and its allies – have an interest in maintaining.

In 2009 China became the largest trading partner of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), a political and economic bloc comprising Brunei, Cambo...

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 Walter Lohman
China is not the biggest trading partner for every Asean economy. Japan is more important for exporters from Brunei, Indonesia and the Philippines, according to Asean figures compiled for 2014. The United States is the leading export destination for Cambodian and Vietnamese products
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