Greater support and trust in SE Asia for US over China, Singapore think tank finds

World | 16 Feb 2021 3:07 pm

Southeast Asia’s support for the U.S. appeared to increase after Joe Biden won the presidential election, according to an annual survey by Singaporean think tank ISEAS Yusof-Ishak Institute, CNBC reports.

The State of Southeast Asia survey released last week found that 61.5 percent of respondents favor aligning with the U.S. over China if the region was forced to pick sides. That’s an increase from 53.6 percent who chose the U.S. over China in the same survey a year ago.

“The region’s support for Washington may have increased as a result of the prospects of the new Biden Administration,” read the report of the survey results.

Responses to the latest survey were gathered from November 18 last year to January 10 this year — after Biden was projected to defeat Donald Trump in the election, but before he was inaugurated as president.

The survey involved more than 1,000 respondents from all 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN. The respondents include government officials, business people, as well as analysts from academia, think tanks and research institutions.

Comparing country-level data, a majority of respondents from seven Southeast Asian nations chose the U.S. over China in the latest survey. That’s an increase from three in the previous edition, with Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand switching sides.

Despite that, the greatest proportion of survey respondents chose China — over the U.S., ASEAN and others — as the most influential power in Southeast Asia.

Around 76.3 percent of respondents picked China as the most influential economic power, while 49.1% chose China as the most influential political and strategic power

But the latest ISEAS survey found that a majority of respondents — around 68.6% — were optimistic that the U.S. under Biden would increase its engagement in Southeast Asia. That compared with a year ago when 77 percent thought U.S. engagement would decrease, the survey showed.

The region’s trust in the U.S. also jumped from 30.3 percent a year ago to 48.3 percent in the latest survey.

“Only time will tell if the region’s renewed trust in the US is misplaced or not,” read the report.

Early signs have shown that the Biden administration would focus more on the region in the coming years.


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