The Chinese recovery could be seen across most economic indicators. A...
2021-07-13 7 ENGLISH REPORTS
The emerging land connections between Mekong states, and between the Mekong states and China, are significant, and historically unprecedented. Mainland Southeast Asia – the Mekong region - comprises Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam, and Thailand.4 Like Southeast Asia writ large, it is between China on the one hand, and external powers United States, Japan, India, and Australia on the other. Historically this has mattered. During the Second World War, Japanese troops landed first in Thailand and moved down the peninsula to take Malaysia and Singapore. In the Cold War, the United States feared a succession of falling Southeast Asian dominoes as communism spread southward.
Since the 1990s, Mekong states have made up half of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the regional organisation struggling, as geopolitical competition intensifies, to maintain its role as the ‘strategic convenor’ of the Indo-Pacific region. The geopolitical alignment of the five ‘Mekong countries’ is thus politically and strategically important. Both the West and China want these states neutral, if not aligned. So the question, “whither mainland Southeast Asia?”, is attracting attention, especially in view of the everincreasing flows of Chinese trade and investment, and the roll-out of China’s BRI through the Indochina Peninsula.
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