In China's Backyard, Charting the Course of Most Advantage

Mar 7, 2019 | 10:00 GMT

Dragon dancers perform as the Chinese guided-missile frigate Wuhu visits Manila, Philippines, in January 2019.

Dragon dancers perform as the Chinese guided-missile frigate Wuhu prepares to dock at the international port in Manila, Philippines, on Jan. 17 on a goodwill visit along with three other Chinese naval ships.

(TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty Images)

The growing great power competition between the United States and China has assumed center stage in Asia, where the Chinese push to build out a buffer in the land and maritime domains in its near-abroad is running up against the U.S. desire to maintain its dominant role in the region. The smaller states along the rims of the Western Pacific and Indian oceans, in particular, have become arenas of competition between Washington and Beijing, and in Southeast Asia, long the maritime and terrestrial crossroads of empire in the Indo-Pacific, their contest has reached a robust and deep level. But as much as the United States and China would prize a stable of stalwart Southeast Asian partners, countries in the region have other agendas, making a future bipolar world composed of unipolar U.S. and Chinese blocs unlikely. Instead, Southeast Asian countries will tactically align with the great powers only when it suits...