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Where Great Powers Meet: America and China in Southeast Asia


Published 09 February 2021

The Hinrich Foundation invited Professor David Shambaugh of George Washington University to review his new book with Professor Wang Gungwu of National University of Singapore in this timely discussion that examines key geopolitical forces shaping Southeast Asia.
In his new book, Where Great Powers Meet: America and China in Southeast Asia, Professor Shambaugh examines how the United States and China are engaged in a broad-gauged and global competition for power. During the discussion, Professor Shambaugh stressed the importance of historical context in understanding the dynamics of the contemporary political economy and the relations between the different actors. He also examined the various dimensions of the Chinese and American engagement with the region and suggested that whilst the US is underappreciated, Chinese influence is often overestimated. Professor Wang Gungwu stressed the value and relevancy of Professor Shambaugh’s approach in focusing attention on the strategic competition between the US and China. He also noted that the “ambivalence” observed amongst ASEAN states towards the two powers is distinct from the “neutrality” of the US-Soviet Cold War era. Moreover, Professor Wang suggested that this ambivalence, to some degree, reflects the competing varieties of capitalism employed by the US (free market) and China (state-led) and adopted, to greater or lesser degrees, by Southeast Asian nations.

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