China-Southeast Asia Relations: Setback in Bali, Challenges All Around

Robert Sutter, Chin-Hao Huang
Content Type
Journal Article
Comparative Connections
Issue Number
Publication Date
September 2011
Center for Strategic and International Studies
China endeavored to win regional influence and goodwill by emphasizing reassurance and mutually beneficial relations with Southeast Asian counterparts. Nevertheless, it failed to keep the issue of the South China Sea off the agenda at the East Asia Summit as Prime Minister Wen Jiabao was placed on the defensive and compelled to defend China's approach to resolving territorial and maritime security issues related to China's broad claims and sometimes assertive actions. Official Chinese commentaries reacted to the setback in Bali with criticism directed at the US, but they tended to avoid hyperbole sometimes seen in unofficial Chinese media. Official commentaries were measured as they depicted various economic, political, and security initiatives during President Obama's trip to the region as challenges to Chinese interests. They also registered opposition to initiatives by Japan and India regarding Southeast Asia and the South China Sea that were seen as at odds with Chinese interests. Myanmar's decision to stop a major hydroelectric dam project being built by Chinese firms added to China's challenges and complications as it raised questions about China's influence in the country while Myanmar's new civilian government tried to improve relations with the US and other powers.
Political Geography
United States, Japan, China, Southeast Asia, Myanmar, South China