Dr. Kin Phea, Director General of the International Relations Institute of Cambodia of the Royal Academy of Cambodia shared his views on US-China rivalry and its impacts on ASEAN. Dr. Kin Phea said that ASEAN is facing challenges and problems from the great powers’ competition, potentially forcing member states to choose sides.
“When elephants fight, only ants die,” he said, adding that small or least powerful countries are affected by the US-China geopolitical and economic battle.
“As a result, ASEAN, including its member states, is affected by the rivalry.”
Phea said ASEAN couldn’t choose side either, as both the US and China have significantly contributed to the development of ASEAN and ASEAN members.
“China has been using soft power to spread China’s power by valuing and promoting development and economy rather than using ideological policy,” Dr. Kin Phea said.
“Therefore, China has been significantly investing in the countries in Southeast Asia, as well as provide grants and loans with simple conditions, for economic growth, hydropower dams and infrastructure development.”
The US was viewed as an important export market for most of the member states and has been using free trade agreements and other trade preference programs like the Generalized System of Preferences for Cambodia and other ASEAN member states to strengthen its relations with ASEAN, thus hindering China’s power from spreading any further within the Southeast Asia region.
Dr. Kin Phea added, “ASEAN must maintain its neutral policy, which is difficult as it’s related to the association’s benefits. ASEAN does not have a reason to replace a powerful country with another powerful country,”.
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