How South-east Asia can sustain its autonomy when great powers collide

One thing countries in the region can do is to avoid 'sleepwalking' into a position of vulnerability.

Non-alignment in this era is tough going for South-east Asia, and it will get harder, say the authors. PHOTO: REUTERS
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At the recent Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, the hardening great power competition between China and the United States was on full display in the duelling speeches of Chinese Defence Minister Wei Fenghe and US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin.

So, too, was South-east Asia's desire to protect its autonomy in this new era and for China and the US to manage their competition responsibly. Indonesia's Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto gave a spirited defence of South-east Asia's preference for non-alignment. This was not fence-sitting, General Prabowo said, but a conscious decision to respect the interests "of all our neighbours and of all the big powers in this region".

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