Singapore, ANI. According to a study, South East Asians lack trust in China due to the region’s autonomy and contempt for inclusion. Despite its enormous contribution to the regional economy, a recent study of Southeast Asian elites conducted by Singapore’s ISEAS-Yusuf Ishaq Institute found China to be the least trusted country in the region.

According to the same study, the US is the second most trusted partner, after only Japan, as reported by the Singapore Post. The long-awaited summit in Washington last month between US President Joe Biden and eight Southeast Asian leaders has put China on high alert. Despite the former’s weak economic output, the US gained ASEAN’s support to elevate its diplomatic status to a “Comprehensive Strategic Partnership”.

China, on the other hand, has long been facing a trust deficit among Southeast Asians. The Singapore Post questioned why China doesn’t achieve the same level of confidence if it can make up for America’s shortfall in Southeast Asia.

Beijing’s initial belief is that Southeast Asian countries are ready to sacrifice their autonomy to spur economic growth. Indeed, China’s regional policy is based on misconceptions about how diplomacy operates in Southeast Asia.

China’s trade volume with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) members has increased from US$443 billion in 2013 to US$878 billion in 2021.

At the same time, since President Xi Jinping initially promoted its “neighborhood diplomacy” in 2013, Beijing has built up about 3,200 acres of artificial land and completely militarized at least three islands in the South China Sea.

According to Hoang Thi Ha of the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute, China’s plan seeks to boost its economic credibility, while also minimizing “other troublesome parts of its conduct, particularly in the South China Sea”. It is no surprise that neighboring countries are skeptical of Beijing’s intentions in the South China Sea.

As reported by The Singapore Post, China’s second misconception is that Southeast Asian countries are ready to bow down completely to a single power’s sphere of influence – as long as it benefits them.

Regional leaders of Southeast Asian countries will never forget when then-Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said at the ASEAN Regional Forum conference in Hanoi in 2010: “China is a huge nation, and other countries are smaller, and this is just a reality. “

Southeast Asian nations want an open and inclusive regional system that allows them to maximize their national independence, while China’s policy contradicts this objective. It’s hard to tempt Southeast Asian countries while risking the ideals that support their favorite type of democracy.

Edited By: Shashank Shekhar Mishra