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In an essay, “Will the Real China Please Stand Up? A Southeast Asian Perspective on China’s Growing Power and Influence,” Professor Aileen Baviera of the UP Asian Center assesses the policy directions China has taken and how its regional neighbors have acted in response to China’s grand and hurried plans (with mixed results) to stake its place in a changing world.
The outcome of these policies was a mixed bag in the ways that China began to be perceived, particularly in Southeast Asia, with some countries eager to embrace this new role for China and others resisting it. BRI and its promise of massive fund infusions for infrastructure building, when first launched for Southeast Asia as the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road in Indonesia in 2013, initially drew polite interest when the concept seemed long in vision but short in specifics. It stirred greater response when understood as but a framework for China’s stronger bilateral cooperation with its neighbors, then drew skepticism when specific infrastructure investment projects became bogged down in difficult negotiations over incompatible technical specifications, unacceptable terms, and politics. For some countries, such as Vietnam and the Philippines, it was viewed with trepidation against the backdrop of China’s growing military power and strategic influence in the region, whilst their maritime and territorial disputes with China in the South China Sea were in fact escalating….
Still, regional states with the exception of Vietnam have opted to be part of BRI, the latest being the Philippines whose relations with China turned around for the better after Rodrigo Duterte assumed office. The prospects for mutually beneficial investments by China in pipelines, ports, industrial zones, energy infrastructure, and the like remain positive. Whether this will translate into Chinese economic influence expanding at the expense of other economic players and of other big powers will depend as much on the extent of engagement by these other actors and their ability to compete with Chinese terms. At the ASEAN level, the preference is to persuade China to coordinate its BRI strategy with that of the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity (2016-2025), which remains unimplemented in part for lack of financial resources.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Aileen SP. Baviera is Professor at the Asian Center, University of the Philippines Diliman. She specializes on and writes about contemporary China studies, China-Southeast Asia relations, Asia-Pacific security, territorial and maritime disputes, and regional integration. The editor in chief of the journal, "Asian Politics & Policy," she is the author of many academic publications, including the "The Domestic Mediations of China's Influence in the Philippines," which appears in Rising China's Influence in Developing Asia, edited by Evelyn Goh and published by Oxford University Press. She completed her Ph.D. in Political Science at the University of the Philippines Diliman. VIEW FULL PROFILE
The UP Asian Center offers M.A. degrees in Asian Studies with four fields of specialization: Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, and West Asia. The Center also has an M.A. program in Philippine Studies that allows students to major in Philippine society and culture, Philippine foreign relations, or Philippine development studies. The Center offers a Ph.D. program in Philippine Studies in conjunction with the College of Arts and Letters and the College of Social Sciences and Philosophy. Get an overview of these programs. The Asian Center also houses a peer-reviewed, open-access journal, Asian Studies: Journal of Critical Perspectives on Asia. It has published several books and monographs, and hosts or organizes various lectures and conferences.