Research & Publications


Engaging China – Reflections from the EU’s and ASEAN’s Responses


Prepared by: Bryan Tan, Research Intern, EU Centre in Singapore
Edited by: Dr Yeo Lay Hwee, Director, EU Centre in Singapore

The views expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union or the EU Centre in Singapore.

A printable version of the commentary is available HERE.

China’s rise as a global economic and trading power has taken on a new significance for the Asia-Pacific region as well as the western world in light of USA’s increasing protectionism under the Trump administration. This brief will explore how regional organizations like the Association for South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the European Union (EU) as well as their member states respond to the rise of China and its increasing assertiveness in projecting its power and protecting its interests globally. China’s geographical proximity to South East Asia and the power competition between China and USA are important factors that shape the responses of ASEAN nations. This brief looks at the “hedging” and “bandwagoning” strategy employed by ASEAN member states against China. On the other hand, being a more unified actor than ASEAN and a central pillar for a rule-based multilateral world order, the EU hopes to constructively manage its internal differences while engaging China in its reform process. Upon closer look, the author finds that the EU, like ASEAN, is challenged by an unpredictable and unilateral America First under Trump, and an increasingly assertive China. To manage the rising tensions and uncertainties, both regional organisations need to be more cohesive and united. They should also work more closely together to uphold a rule-based multilateral order.