Navigating the divide: South-east Asia between the US and China

There is an ancient Asian adage that when elephants fight, the grass is trampled. Such is the danger for South-east Asia as the geo-competition between the United States and China heats up in 2020. Many believe Cold War 2.0 is emerging and that virtually all other countries in the world will be caught in the middle - the "intermediate zone" as Mao Zedong called it during Cold War 1.0.

But it is an oversimplification and not empirically accurate to describe international relations in Asia and the Indo-Pacific as simply a bipolar dyad between the US and China.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 10, 2020, with the headline 'Navigating the divide: S-E Asia between the US and China'. Subscribe