Southeast Asia and China: A Contest in Mutual Socialization.

AuthorDas, Sanchita Basu
PositionBook review

Southeast Asia and China: A Contest in Mutual Socialization, edited by Lowell Dittmer and Ngeow Chow Bing. Singapore: World Scientific, 2017. Pp. 300.

A focus on the relationship between China and countries in the Southeast Asian region solely based on issues regarding the South China Sea (SCS) is incomplete. The relationship is much deeper and broader, and includes far-reaching economic linkages between these countries. To resolve the political-economic conundrum, the ten small Southeast Asian countries have adopted the "ASEAN way", a normative mechanism to manage peace and stability in the region. While the SCS issue has the potential for conflict, economic integration is promoted as a constructive way to enhance growth and prosperity. Southeast Asia and China: A Contest in Mutual Socialization provides a detailed account of this well-encompassing, though at times conflicting, relationship between China and Southeast Asia, or ASEAN. It examines ASEAN's norm of accommodation and differentiates it from the Western concept of sovereignty to explain how countries like Malaysia and China dilute the controversies around the territorial dispute and maintain cordial economic relationships with each other.

The edited volume is organized into three sections--Politics, Economics, and Norms--and twelve chapters (including the introduction), that are written by renowned Southeast Asian scholars.

The section on politics is the longest and discusses the issue bilaterally among the claimant states. Ngeow Chow Bing, as the author of the lead essay in the section, lays down the background with China's new identity as a rising economic power and the implications for its relationship with Southeast Asia. Following that, five chapters are devoted to setting out the claimant countries' perspectives on the SCS issue. You Ji, for example, provides the Chinese outlook and argues that recently China's intentions seem to be less transparent than those of the Southeast Asian nations. To illustrate this, he discusses the Scarborough Shoal incident of 2012 when Beijing displayed its "reactive assertiveness" to Manila, although it did not try to reclaim the Shoal the same way it did for the other islands--by building ports and airstrips. It seems that for Beijing, SCS is only a means to attain the bigger goal of expanding into the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

Similarly, Reynaldo C. Ileto offers a historical account on the current Philippines-China relationship. He...

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