Today marks the first stop of Minister Wang’s weeklong trip to Vietnam, Cambodia, Singapore, and South Korea.
The foreign minister announced his plan to discuss Belt and Road cooperation with the four countries. However, the main purpose of the trip will likely be to counter US Vice President Kamala Harris’s visit to Vietnam and Singapore last month since the US Vice President persuaded the two countries to side with the US to pressure China in the South China Sea.
During his trip, the foreign minister will likely attempt to side-line the US from Southeast Asia by highlighting US military presence as the biggest security threat to the region. He will likely offer more BRI investments in infrastructure and digital connectivity to boost the region’s trade-led recovery. Singapore will likely continue its discussion with China at the coming BRI Summit about joint investment on some BRI projects to support regional intra-trade.
While Southeast Asia welcomes more BRI investments, they will less likely tilt towards China. As Southeast Asian countries see the US military presence as a balance check against China’s growing assertiveness in the South China Sea, they will stay neutral while actively calling on both powers’ roles in addressing economic and security uncertainties in the post-pandemic.
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