One theme stood out for me while listening to a press conference this week by China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi. And that is China’s seeming world view that countries in the region are not quite capable of making their own decisions and are often subjected to the “interference” of others. Replying to a question on India-China relations , Wang said that as major countries with a population of over a billion, only by staying independent “can we firmly grasp our own destiny and realise our goals of development and rejuvenation”. “As we have seen, some forces have always sought to stoke tension between China and India,” Wang said on the sidelines of the National People’s Congress, China’s parliament. Envoy says Philippines to back US if Ukraine war spills into Asia Asked whether Beijing and Asean countries can overcome their differences and reach a Code of Conduct on the South China Sea , Wang warned the bloc to “firmly thwart disturbances” from countries outside the region who do not wish to see tranquillity in the disputed waters. “ Asean countries need to stay clear-eyed about this and jointly resist disturbances and sabotage attempts from outside”, he added, referring to the United States and its allies of mostly Western countries. While these are fairly standard answers to Chinese foreign policy postures, I am not sure if the country’s diplomats realise that these responses come across as patronising – even condescending – and sound as if regional countries do not know any better about making independent foreign policy choices and have to be explicitly reminded. Former Indian foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale, who also did a stint as an envoy to China, likely felt the same way. Gokhale tweeted a live video of Wang’s response in Mandarin – overlaid with the simultaneous translation in English – to the question on Sino-India ties raised by an Indian reporter at the news briefing. He wrote: “Chinese FM gives boilerplate reply to [a] question on India-China relations. Suggests that another power is creating the rift, and implying that India is not able to make independent decisions.” Certainly, there is the sort of “interference” which Wang alluded to. But this is not shunned and even welcomed by the region. Southeast Asia’s trust in China, US improves but dips for Japan: survey In the latest State of Southeast Asia survey released last month by the Singapore-based ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute, among the 1677 respondents polled, 57 per cent said that if Asean was forced to align itself with either the US and China, they would choose Washington. In the poll, 41.7 per cent of respondents saw China as a “revisionist power” that intends to turn Southeast Asia into “its sphere of influence”. Countries are naturally guided by national interests and this needs no reminders or sermonising from a nation which is the most influential economic power but yet also induces the most discomfort in the region. It is better for Beijing to address Asean’s discomfort with its policies, including the use of economic tools to punish a country’s foreign policy decisions and its strong-arm tactics in the South China Sea and the Mekong River . China should refrain from engaging in “condescension diplomacy” and suggesting that countries cannot independently make decisions that are in their own interests.