China and America in Southeast Asia

La Chine et l'Amèrique en Asie du Sud-Est


Friday, October 22, 2021


09:00 – 10:45

VenueVenue 2Venue 2


Chair/Président: Brian Job, University of British Columbia

Event poster


Understanding Key Differences in Chinese and American Engagement with Southeast Asia

Kylie Luu, University of British Columbia; Jonathan Brasnett, University of Ottawa

In recent years, Southeast Asian countries have become more firmly divided along two camps. On the one hand, Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Thailand have shown an allegiance to the People’s Republic of China (PRC), while on the other hand, the Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore, and Vietnam remain aligned with the United States of America (US). In order to analyze how this geopolitical division will impact progress in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on paramount issues like combatting climate change, addressing poverty and overcoming global health issues like the COVID-19 pandemic, it is necessary to understand the differences between the PRC and the US in terms of their objectives and approaches in Southeast Asia. This paper seeks to distill these broader questions by examining the relations between these two superpowers and the ASEAN member states in three key areas: (1) trade and investment; (2) international assistance; and (3) security cooperation. This study concludes that, whereas American involvement in the region is ideologically driven, Chinese involvement is drive by Beijing’s pursuit of power, which will ultimately hinder progress in key areas of development.

Covid‐19 Pandemic and The New Geopolitics Between the Philippines and the People’s Republic of China in the South China Sea Region

Rommel C. Gavieta, Far Eastern University, Philippines

The COVID-19 pandemic has sent the global economy into the first simultaneous recession since the 1930s. It has, arguably, already altered the course of globalization and the long-term movement of people, talents and services, and even goods. The demographic-economic-political health under stress and the social fabric strained of the Philippines and Peoples' Republic of China (PRC). The two countries is in a region now that finds itself becoming the global epicentre of geopolitical rivalry. The coronavirus crisis has become a measurement of the geopolitical stability in the Philippines and the PRC. A review of the geopolitical indicators that will weigh on the response of the Philippines and the PRC on a multiplicity of issues, in some cases even challenging their survival. This paper will present geopolitical scenarios post pandemic that will be the basis for geostrategic options in resolving the potential conflict between the Philippines and the PRC in the South China Sea.

From Nanhai to Nanyang: The Images of Southeast Asia in Late Imperial China

Lin Sun, School of History, Beijing Normal University

The understanding of Southeast Asia has always been dynamic over the past centuries. Both Nanhai and Nanyang are Chinese words referring to the “Southern Sea” or “Southern Ocean.” It was a familiar and unfamiliar maritime world to Chinese imperial states between the 16th and 19th centuries. The word Nanhai was frequently used by the Ming court (1368–1644). By contrast, the Qing court adopted the word Nanyang (1636–1911) and later it became a more general term indicating Southeast Asia in both Eastern and Western academia. The difference between the words and Southeast Asia images in the two imperial Chinese courts’ eyes remain unclear. This article explores the changes behind the words, arguing two power shifts led to the word choice. In this presentation, the first part shows the Ming-Qing power shift that allowed the Qing court to choose Nanyang thereby replacing Nanhai. The second part indicates that Nanyang had two different political meanings, i.e., south China and Southeast Asia, after the Opium War in 1840. Therefore, this paper reveals the words’ changes and their underlying causes over the past three centuries.

Vietnam’s 2020 Chairmanship and Security in the South China Sea

Jacob Benjamin, Balsillie School of International Affairs, University of Waterloo

The year of Vietnam’s ASEAN chairmanship had many Sino-Vietnamese flashpoints—just like those of years prior—such as the deployment of fighter jets and an H-6J bomber to the Paracel Islands in late August 2020. The year also came with new Vietnamese initiatives that reinforced sovereignty rights in the face of Chinese expansionism in the South China Sea, such as requiring foreign companies to comply with nationalist maps of the Spratly and Paracel islands. While working within a world battling COVID-19, Hanoi’s chairmanship attracted international support for its South China Sea interests and sovereignty. In the very first week, Vietnam directly threatened China with litigation. Vietnam used ASEAN to more robustly emphasize the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).  It has referred to the South China Sea as the East Sea in ASEAN proceedings. Using the year of Vietnam’s ASEAN chairmanship as a time frame and focal point, this paper will analyze how Vietnam navigated and balanced China’s expansionism in the South China Sea amidst an enormously complicating global cataclysm.

CCSEAS Conference 2021 |