US-Chinese rivalry at East Asia Summit

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Security forces patrol in front of Peace Palace, Phnom Penh during the ASEAN summit © Justin Calderon

The 7th East Asia Summit, together with the 21st ASEAN summit, currently being held in Cambodia from November 16 to 20, is the stage for two world powers in rivalry for influence in Southeast Asia. While US president Barack Obama’s visit to the country marks the first by a sitting president, for the Chinese delegation headed by Primer Wen Jiabao, the event builds upon 15 years of ongoing diplomatic relations defined largely by extended aid, loans and investments.

by Laura Noggle

In stark contrast to the bleak economic outlook for much of North America, Europe and Japan, Southeast Asia continues to represent a relative safe haven for investment, with the World Bank forecasting an average of 7 per cent growth for the region next year. With visits in Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia, President Obama is looking to assure key partners and potential adversaries alike that US policy in Asia is focused not solely on China.

According to the National Security Director for Asia, Danny Russel, America is committed to the “peaceful rise” of all nations in the region. “We have important bilateral relationships – important in their own right – and we have important work to do with regional institutions such as ASEAN and the East Asia Summit,” Russel told reporters during a conference call ahead of the Obama visit.

Peace in the South China Sea is one of the hot topics and one of the main issues to be dealt with, as tensions between China and Japan continue to rise, as well as claimants in Southeast Asia, namely the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei.

China, however, has already bought its loyalties, courting the favour of many Southeast Asian nations with attractive financial incentives. According to the Cambodian Investment Board, Chinese companies invested over $8.2 billion in Cambodia between 2006 to August 2012. South Korea came in second place with $3.8 billion invested, while American companies only put in $924 million, a far cry from China’s attentions. The Cambodian hosts view the leaders from Beijing as old friends, a fact that puts the Obama entourage at a key disadvantage.

Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital, is hosting the ASEAN Summit welcoming leaders from China, Japan, South Korea and India. Mindful of such high profile visitors, the Cambodian government has stifled recent public demonstrations citing security and public order priorities. Human rights activists who were hoping to hold rallies have had their venues cancelled.

While pressure is undoubtedly being put on all nations to remain peaceful in the South China Sea and respect international human rights agreements, it remains to be seen how flexible China will be.

 

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[caption id="attachment_5366" align="alignleft" width="300"] Security forces patrol in front of Peace Palace, Phnom Penh during the ASEAN summit © Justin Calderon[/caption] The 7th East Asia Summit, together with the 21st ASEAN summit, currently being held in Cambodia from November 16 to 20, is the stage for two world powers in rivalry for influence in Southeast Asia. While US president Barack Obama’s visit to the country marks the first by a sitting president, for the Chinese delegation headed by Primer Wen Jiabao, the event builds upon 15 years of ongoing diplomatic relations defined largely by extended aid, loans and investments. by...

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Security forces patrol in front of Peace Palace, Phnom Penh during the ASEAN summit © Justin Calderon

The 7th East Asia Summit, together with the 21st ASEAN summit, currently being held in Cambodia from November 16 to 20, is the stage for two world powers in rivalry for influence in Southeast Asia. While US president Barack Obama’s visit to the country marks the first by a sitting president, for the Chinese delegation headed by Primer Wen Jiabao, the event builds upon 15 years of ongoing diplomatic relations defined largely by extended aid, loans and investments.

by Laura Noggle

In stark contrast to the bleak economic outlook for much of North America, Europe and Japan, Southeast Asia continues to represent a relative safe haven for investment, with the World Bank forecasting an average of 7 per cent growth for the region next year. With visits in Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia, President Obama is looking to assure key partners and potential adversaries alike that US policy in Asia is focused not solely on China.

According to the National Security Director for Asia, Danny Russel, America is committed to the “peaceful rise” of all nations in the region. “We have important bilateral relationships – important in their own right – and we have important work to do with regional institutions such as ASEAN and the East Asia Summit,” Russel told reporters during a conference call ahead of the Obama visit.

Peace in the South China Sea is one of the hot topics and one of the main issues to be dealt with, as tensions between China and Japan continue to rise, as well as claimants in Southeast Asia, namely the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei.

China, however, has already bought its loyalties, courting the favour of many Southeast Asian nations with attractive financial incentives. According to the Cambodian Investment Board, Chinese companies invested over $8.2 billion in Cambodia between 2006 to August 2012. South Korea came in second place with $3.8 billion invested, while American companies only put in $924 million, a far cry from China’s attentions. The Cambodian hosts view the leaders from Beijing as old friends, a fact that puts the Obama entourage at a key disadvantage.

Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital, is hosting the ASEAN Summit welcoming leaders from China, Japan, South Korea and India. Mindful of such high profile visitors, the Cambodian government has stifled recent public demonstrations citing security and public order priorities. Human rights activists who were hoping to hold rallies have had their venues cancelled.

While pressure is undoubtedly being put on all nations to remain peaceful in the South China Sea and respect international human rights agreements, it remains to be seen how flexible China will be.

 

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