Nations find “strategic partnership” with China unsettling

Peace and Freedom

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“If language is not in accordance with the truth of things, affairs cannot be carried on to success.”

Chinese coastguard ships in the South China Sea, the subject of maritime disputes between China and various Asean member states. The rows have received much attention but they are not the central issue. They are symptoms of a far more fundamental issue that colours the entire Asean-China agenda. Photo by Reuters

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Strengthened ties between China and Southeast Asian countries have inspired much optimism, but fundamental asymmetries between them still threaten these new relationships.

A few months ago, a Chinese friend came to see me. He travels frequently and widely in Southeast Asia on business. He is a well informed and acute observer of developments in Southeast Asia and Chinese policies toward the region. I have always benefitted from our conversations. This time I found him worried about…

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