China’s relationship with Southeast Asia has gained importance in light of Western powers’ attempts to expand influence in the Asia-Pacific.
On the surface, Beijing’s definition of ‘model’ bilateral ties looks non-controversial. But its own interests are always paramount, despite the rhetoric – just look at the South China Sea.
Amid the Covid-19 pandemic and a downturn in relations with the US, Beijing has embarked on a diplomatic offensive in Southeast Asia, using traditional and digital platforms.
The Philippine president’s fifth visit to the country last month saw the two sides move a step closer to joint oil and gas exploration, but he faces fierce domestic criticism of his softer line and progress has been measured and slow.
Vietnam and China are embroiled in a tense stand-off over oil and gas fields in the disputed waterway, ramming each other’s vessels and firing water cannons, and some say Hanoi is ready to take tougher action.