US facing economic, security challenges from China in Southeast Asia, says expert

The United States is facing economic and security challenges from China in Southeast Asia, according to an expert.

Michael Mazza, a visiting fellow in foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, made the remarks during a recent press conference, where its research report, titled An American Strategy for Southeast Asia, was released.

The importance of Southeast Asia has long been underestimated, and the region should be elevated to the central status in Asia due to its key sea lanes leading to India and China and rich resources, said Mazza.

Southeast Asia will bring opportunities and challenges to the United States. On the one hand, the economic growth of Southeast Asia can promote the global economy; on the other hand, terrorism, rebellions and uncertainties in the democratic process of Southeast Asia will bring security problems, said Mazza.

The expert said that China's state capitalism is popular in Southeast Asia, but stressed that China's growing assertiveness in the region's surrounding waters is also a challenge.

Facing these Chinese challenges, the United States should adopt a three-pronged approach. Economically, the United States should take part in trade and financial activities in order to ensure Southeast Asia follows the rules of free market economy. In terms of security, the United States should promote peaceful coexistence in the region. As for governance, the United States should adopt a more flexible policy to achieve freedom and democracy in the region, according to Mazza.

On Tuesday, the American Enterprise Institute released An American Strategy for Southeast Asia, which advocates an enhanced American involvement in Southeast Asia by adopting a comprehensive strategy with economic, security and governance components to maintain its interests and ensure peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.

The 68-page research report outlines a framework for a comprehensive US strategy in Southeast Asia, which has been gradually affected by China's growing economic and military influence.

The Donald Trump administration has designed a free and open Indo-Pacific strategy to move away from a China-centric narrative of Asia, where Beijing is expanding its political and economic influence through its Belt and Road Initiative.

The United States has roped in Japan, India and Australia to join the Indo-Pacific strategy, which focuses on infrastructure investment and economic cooperation, given the fact that the four countries share the same democratic values.

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