Home World News A Confused Biden Team Risks Losing Southeast Asia to China

A Confused Biden Team Risks Losing Southeast Asia to China

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May 25 was hardly a bravura day for U.S. diplomacy in Southeast Asia. Foreign ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) gathered for their first virtual meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Having waited the best part of an hour, they learned a technical snafu would stop Blinken from participating in the call, which he had been due to join from his airplane as he flew off to the Middle East. A few weeks later, the same group of ASEAN ministers flew off to enjoy red carpet treatment and a productive, snafu-free, in-person meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. The contrast between the two episodes was not hard to spot.

Southeast Asia is an important front line in a new era of geopolitical competition between China and the United States. U.S. President Joe Biden took office with plenty of goodwill across the region. Its leaders hoped Biden would be less erratic than former U.S. President Donald Trump…

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