Filipinos ‘most worried’ of China’s power in SEA
China’s growing political and economic influence in Southeast Asia (SEA) has become a major concern in the region, but nowhere is that unease stronger than in the Philippines, according to a recent survey of officials, academics and other professionals in SEA.
The survey, titled “The State of Southeast Asia’’ and conducted by the Singaporean think-tank ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute’s Asean Studies Center, sought to understand the perceptions of Southeast Asians on regional affairs, as well as on the engagements of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) with its dialogue partners.
Of the 1,308 respondents in 10 countries, nearly 80 percent identified China as the most influential economic power in the region, up from 73.3 percent the previous year.
But though China’s influence is deeply felt, it was not well received by those countries that recognized its power, with the biggest distrust felt in the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand.
Both the Philippines and Vietnam have a long-running conflict with Beijing over disputed territories in the South China Sea.
Beijing was also seen as the most influential political and strategic power in the region, but majority of those who recognized its power also expressed worry over its growing influence.
Majority of Filipino respondents expressed the same concern over China’s growing influence, with 87.8 percent expressing their unease.
Over 82 percent of Filipino respondents who identified China as the most influential economic power also said that they were “worried” over its rising influence, higher than the region’s average at 71.9 percent.
The survey, conducted from November to December last year, also showed waning confidence in the United States, under the Trump administration, as a strategic partner and provider of regional security.