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Growing US-China conflict may not be bad for Asia

Smaller countries stand to gain from the contest for influence despite its risks

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"We don't want to choose between America and China" - that has been the mantra in East Asia for the last decade as the contest between Washington and Beijing intensified. It's less a declaration of strategy than a prayer for the continuation of the relatively harmonious relationship between America and China that helped stabilise the region for more than four decades.

But China's neighbours in Asia never had the agency to shape, let alone control the structure of its relationship with America. Now with the arrival of a new dynamic on their door step, they have no choice but to cope. As the adage goes, the strong do what they would; and the weak endure what they must.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 22, 2018, with the headline Growing US-China conflict may not be bad for Asia. Subscribe