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East Asia’s regional order is in the throes of a remarkable transition, but the nature and potential results of this transition are deeply contested. By mobilising developing countries, a constituency that has been too often neglected, China seems to be altering the regional balance of influence. But how much influence over these countries’ choices and policies does China actually have?
China has cultivated apparent patron–client relationships with small peripheral states that can play ‘spoiler’ roles in regional initiatives. Cambodia and Laos played this role within ASEAN in 2012 and 2016 to forestall a collective stance on the South China Sea territorial disputes with China. Politically motivated Chinese trade deals, favourable lending and targeted investments in surrounding developing countries help Beijing to buy favour and cultivate dependence.
Read full article Does China get what it wants in East Asia?by Evelyn Goh published in East Asia Forum.