A Triangular Relationship
Leuven Global Governance series
Edited by Jan Wouters, Jean-Christophe Defraigne and Matthieu Burnay
Chapter 3: The EU-ASEAN economic relations and China-ASEAN economic relations
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) states have a long history connecting them with both China and the European Union (EU). The tributary system has marked China’s relations with its Southeast Asian neighbors for three millennia. Due to geographic proximity, China views Southeast Asia both as its traditional sphere of influence and as a strategic backdoor through which a hostile outside power could penetrate and disrupt China’s development. Europe built its first direct commercial linkages with Southeast Asia in the 15th century (Dixon, 1991: 58). Europe subsequently turned its relationship with Southeast Asia from one based on simple trading to one where it controlled the supply of the most valuable products, replacing China as the dominant force in the region. Most Southeast Asian countries succumbed to European colonialists: Myanmar, Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei to Britain; Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia to France; Indonesia to the Netherlands; and the Philippines to Spain and then the United States.
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