A Triangular Relationship
Leuven Global Governance series
Edited by Jan Wouters, Jean-Christophe Defraigne and Matthieu Burnay
Chapter 4: China’s rise, the American ‘pivot’ and the European Union in Southeast Asia
China and Europe have one major point in common in relation to Southeast Asia in the longue durée: they have both impacted on their peoples, political structures, global position and Weltanschauung (world view or rather world views). The difference is that the Chinese impact has been historically longer and deeper and that, today, amongst political and economic actors in the ten member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the question of relations with a now rising China dwarfs any concern about Europe, let alone the European Union. Seen over a broad sweep of history, through trade and the dispersion of Chinese peoples overseas, as well as its cultural impact, for example through the diffusion of Confucian norms of governance in Vietnam, China has had a durable impact in Southeast Asia. While the European colonial interregnum was short-lived – with widespread direct colonization lasting just over three-quarters of a century – this experience and the ensuing experience of decolonization saw the creation of both the political structures present in the nation-states of Southeast Asia as well as the predominance of social forces (such as the army in Burma/Myanmar or the Communist Party in Vietnam) that continue to hold sway. In the rhetoric of Chinese diplomacy today there is an appeal to that previous age of tributary/informal/fraternal relations prior, in the official Chinese view, to the century of humiliation of China by the West beginning with the Opium Wars and ending with the Chinese revolution of 1949.
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