Southeast Asia would choose the U.S. over China if forced to pick sides, survey shows

Signs with the US flag and Chinese flag are seen outside a store selling foreign goods in Qingdao in China’s eastern Shandong province on Sept. 19, 2018.

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SINGAPORE — Southeast Asia’s support for the U.S. appeared to increase after Joe Biden won the presidential election, according to an annual survey by Singaporean think tank ISEAS Yusof-Ishak Institute.

The State of Southeast Asia survey released last week found that 61.5% of respondents favor aligning with the U.S. over China if the region was forced to pick sides. That’s an increase from 53.6% who chose the U.S. over China in the same survey a year ago.

“The region’s support for Washington may have increased as a result of the prospects of the new Biden Administration,” read the report of the survey results.

Responses to the latest survey were gathered from Nov. 18 last year to Jan. 10 this year — after Biden was projected to defeat Donald Trump in the election, but before he was inaugurated as president.

The survey involved more than 1,000 respondents from all 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN. The respondents include government officials, business people, as well as analysts from academia, think tanks and research institutions.

Comparing country-level data, a majority of respondents from seven Southeast Asian nations chose the U.S. over China in the latest survey. That’s an increase from three in the previous edition, with Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand switching sides.

Despite that, the greatest proportion of survey respondents chose China — over the U.S., ASEAN and others — as the most influential power in Southeast Asia.

Around 76.3% of respondents picked China as the most influential economic power, while 49.1% chose China as the most influential political and strategic power.   

Significance of Southeast Asia 

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