By Invitation

Back to the future - spheres of influence in Europe and Asia

An old concept takes on new life, and not just between the US and China

While playing host to the Prime Minister of Vanuatu in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing last year, President Xi Jinping said China was not seeking a "sphere of influence" in the region. "Countries, no matter big or small, strong or weak, rich or poor, are equal members of the international community," he declared, adding that "China is opposed to great power chauvinism".

But why is Mr Xi talking about so-called "spheres of influence", a notion that is widely seen as so 19th century?

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 08, 2020, with the headline 'Back to the future - spheres of influence in Europe and Asia'. Subscribe