Edited by David S.G. Goodman
Ever since the ‘rise of China’ has captured the public and academic imagination, Southeast Asia has taken centre stage in this debate because of the region’s proximity to China (Chong and Li 2011; Yeoh 2009; Storey 2011; Percival 2007; Kurlantzick 2007). If the People’s Republic of China (PRC) was to establish itself as a leading and possibly hegemonic power on the international stage, such a development would surely manifest itself first in the nation’s immediate neighbourhood, or so the mainstream argument goes. At one end of the spectrum, some argue that China’s rise provides manifold opportunities for Southeast Asia, which nicely matches China’s official ‘win–win’ rhetoric: since the Association of Southeast Asian States (ASEAN)1 ‘collectively established official contact with China in 1991, the two sides have made remarkable progress in forging a strategic partnership for peace and prosperity’ (Yang and Heng 2011: 126). At the other end of the spectrum, a smaller group proposes that the emergence of an expansionist China is a threat to a stable regional order (for example Grieco 2002; Sokolsky et al. 2001). Most of the studies in this latter category were published in the early 2000s and written against a backdrop of growing concerns about the future role of the United States in Southeast Asia: a zero-sum scenario for big power hegemony in which ‘the Chinese are now eating the Americans’ lunch in the region’ (Cox 2008: 310).
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