“Southeast Asia is arguably the most diverse region in the world. Accordingly, rather than addressing one list of questions, the contributors to this volume have—as experts on Southeast Asia-China relations—explored the matters they see as most important and most deserving of exploration and exposure. After the editor’s introduction, the chapters proceed in pairs. Each pair and a closing chapter cover a distinctive theme in Southeast Asia’s interactions with China.
Featured among the historical and economic contexts needed to understand the interactions are security and development as Chinese goals and how diversified beyond China Southeast Asia’s trading partners are. Southeast Asian and Chinese perceptions of each other are examined using survey research and by asking whether China views the region as its “strategic backyard.” Two actual or intended expansions are analyzed: expanded Chinese sovereignty over the South China Sea and Beijing’s interest in using “overseas Chinese” to expand its influence in the region. The chapters on strategies lay out the very different ways of approaching China preferred by Singapore and Indonesia. Rather than documenting the obvious inequalities of size and power between China on the one hand and Cambodia and Laos on the other, the essays on disparities show how relations with China interact with asymmetries inside these two states. Policy implications of differing distances are drawn in the pieces on how Southeast Asia’s proximity to China affects the prospect of Chinese regional dominance as compared with far-off America’s role and as seen through the lens of Beijing’s far-flung Maritime Silk Road. A final chapter on a seventh theme features a Myanmar analyst’s retrospection on myths and illusions that have arisen to cloud how that country’s relations with China are interpreted, with possible implications for understanding Sino-Southeast Asian dealings with China more broadly.”