The small and medium-sized states in Southeast Asia have faced significant geostrategic changes with the end of the Cold War and the rise of China. Over the last decade, scholars have debated how these countries would cope with growing Chinese power, and how their relations with the other major powers in the region would change. Some analysts have suggested that the region is shifting toward a more China-centered order, but this view is premature. Eschewing the simple dichotomy of balancing versus bandwagoning, Southeast Asian countries do not want to choose between the two major powers, the United States and China. This avoidance strategy is not merely tactical or time-buying; instead, Southeast Asian states have actively tried to influence the shape of the new regional order. Key Southeast Asian states are pursuing two main pathways to order in the region: the “omni-enmeshment” of major powers and complex balance of influence. They have helped to produce an interim power distribution outcome, which is a hierarchical regional order that retains the United States' dominant superpower position while incorporating China in a regional great power position just below that of the United States.

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