The Conundrum of Southeast Asian Elite’s Fear of China’s RisePosted: May 9, 2017
SCMP says in its report “Trump ‘dents US reputation’ in Southeast Asia, leaves door open for China” yesterday that recent survey among Southeast Asian elite reflected widespread concerns among China’s Southeast Asian neighbours that US withdrawal from the region will leave the region entirely to China’s influence, which the report regards as China’s “increasing assertiveness.”
In fact, China has not increased its assertiveness. Instead, it is willing to share the resources in the South China Sea. It allows Philippine fishermen to resume fishing at Scarborough Shoal proves that. It prohibited their fishing due to former Philippine President Aquino’s attempt to ban Chinese fishing there. As soon as the Philippines has put an end to Aquino’s hostility and treated China as a friend, China willingly become Philippines’ friend.
People are used to regarding China’s construction of artificial islands as proof of China’s assertiveness but the construction was for national security against US aggression. To deal with contending claimants, Chinese navy is strong enough. Why shall China have spent billions of dollars for the construction?
If China had been assertive enough, it would have sent its troops to take the islands and reefs it claims but has been occupied by other claimants. China, however, refrains from doing so.
What then are Southeast Asian elite’s concerns? Their concerns are much more serious.
We all know overseas Chinese are very rich in Southeast Asian countries and even dominate some countries’ economy. To contain overseas Chinese, the governments there often persecuted overseas Chinese and even massacred them. Indonesian massacres and Malaysian massacre on May 13, 1969 were typical examples.
At that time, China was very weak while the US was very strong. Chinese government could do nothing to help overseas Chinese.
If the US remains strong enough to contain China, those elite can keep on persecuting or at least discriminating overseas Chinese while overseas Chinese dare not fight for a share in the politics there commensurate to their economic strength.
US withdrawal is due to its lack of strength to contend with China in the South China Sea. China now has great geographical advantages due to the three airports it has built on its artificial islands. That is why the US dared not to fight when China told it China would fight for its rights and interests in the South China Sea.
Therefore, US withdrew happened when Obama was the president. Trump is only realistic not to continue Obama’s stupid TPP and pivot to Asia. If China keeps on rising and the US, declining, there is no hope for US to recover its dominance in Southeast Asia no matter who is US president.
In the future with the support from their motherland overseas Chinese may rise up to fight against persecution and discrimination and for their political rights.
That is Southeast Asian elite’s greatest concern.
Comment by Chan Kai Yee on SCMP’s report, full text of which can be found at http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2093343/trump-dents-us-reputation-southeast-asia-leaves-door.