China, Asean and the new Maritime Silk Road

Evolving concepts about South-east Asia and changing Chinese attitudes towards sea power have shaped events
that are playing out now in the Sino-US contest over Asean and the broader region. Here are edited excerpts from
a keynote speech by eminent historian Wang Gungwu at a recent webinar

Asean and South-east Asia are often taken together. But we should be very clear that they are very different in many ways. PHOTO: REUTERS
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I will begin with Asean in the context of South-east Asia as a region. What is this region? Because that is, to me, central to the whole story.

Asean and South-east Asia - the two names are often taken together. But I think we should be very clear that they are very different in many ways. When we talk about South-east Asia, we all know which are the countries we refer to. But for thousands of years while the region has been there, it never had one single identity.

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