Will China’s ‘COVID-aid’ offensive reshape ASEAN’s Indo-Pacific outlook?

COVID-19 ASEAN Pandemics Foreign aid Relations with China Diplomacy International relations ASEAN Indo-Pacific Region

As countries struggle to manage their domestic COVID-19 outbreaks, many initiatives have been launched to encourage international cooperation among countries. One of the most significant has come from the Chinese government, which has offered considerable amounts of ‘COVID-aid’ to affected countries around the world.

Will China’s assistance strengthen the ASEAN’s commitment to an Indo-Pacific outlook? Or will it create more complicated relations between ASEAN member countries and China, as well as the US? Differences between the approach of the US and China in combating COVID-19 may affect how ASEAN countries relate to both major powers, as well as their broader Indo-Pacific orientations.

Key points:

  • As the COVID-19 crisis spreads around the world, China has used ‘COVID-aid’ as a means to build diplomatic relationships.
  • Southeast Asian governments – which are badly affected by the pandemic – have been leading recipients of this aid.
  • It comes at a time when ASEAN is attempting to reappraise its position with respect to the US and China, given accelerating competition between the two powers.
  • ASEAN recently adopted an Outlook on the Indo-Pacific, which advocated an inclusive approach to regionalism and warned against great power competition.
  • As China’s international response to the COVID crisis has been significantly more effective than that of the US, ASEAN governments may reappraise their position in coming months.
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