In a new essay for the National Bureau of Asian Research titled “What’s Past is Prologue: The Geopolitical Significance of COVID-19 for Southeast Asia,” WEAI Research Scholar Ann Marie Murphy discusses the impact of COVID-19 on Southeast Asia, focusing particularly on relations between the US, China, and the countries of the region.
“In Southeast Asia, COVID-19 is likely to accelerate existing trends such as China’s ascendency, the waning of US leadership, and the intensification of Sino-US rivalry that narrow the strategic options of regional states and could trigger strategic adjustments that favor China,” Murphy wrote.
According to Murphy: “Predicting geopolitical trends is risky, but the new normal in Southeast Asia may well resemble the region’s recent past. The pandemic appears to be accelerating China’s ascent, hastening U. decline, escalating Sino-US tensions, and narrowing the strategic options for Southeast Asia’s small and middle powers. Except for Cambodia, where Prime Minister Hun Sen has used the pandemic to cement his alignment with China, no Southeast Asian country wants to make a binary choice between the United States and China. Unable to rely on the United States and unwilling to rely on China to provide public goods, Southeast Asian countries are seeking to enhance their strategic autonomy through ASEAN and cooperation with the Indo-Pacific’s middle powers.”
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