ASEAN: Nations Divided Between China and USA

For the first time in opinion polls, China has overtaken the USA in preference percentage

More than half of the citizens of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member countries would prefer their country “to ally with China rather than the United States if it had to choose between the two superpowers.” This is the main result of a public opinion poll conducted by ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute , a demographic and analytical center in Singapore. The survey was conducted ahead of the first ASEAN Future Forum to be held in Vietnam on April 23.

More specifically, 50.5% of respondents expressed preference for China, while 49.5% said they preferred the United States. According to the Japanese newspaper Nikkei (Nihon Keizai Shimbun), such a survey has been conducted for four years, but this was “the first time China managed to overtake the USA in terms of preference percentage.” Surveys by the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute center in Singapore are considered “very representative and reputable”: they interview people from the public and private sectors, as well as scientists and researchers.

Among the 10 ASEAN member countries, a clearly favorable orientation toward China was especially evident in Malaysia, where the world’s second largest economy and the largest Asian power was chosen as a reference point by 75.1% of respondents. Similar percentages were also found in Indonesia (73.1%) and Laos (70.6%). The reason being, Nikkei writes, is that the mentioned countries have reaped “significant economic benefits” from participating in China’s Belt and Road (New Silk Road) initiative. At the same time, in less favorable responses of people surveyed in Vietnam and the Philippines “tensions were felt, related to territorial disputes between these two countries and China, especially with regard to the South China Sea.”