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China’s reach

It’s not news that China is using aid to build up its influence in Southeast Asia and beyond. What’s interesting is how ultra-secretive it is being about its contributions. The NYT reported this week that Western aid officials were shocked last month to learn about a $2 billion Chinese aid package to the Philippines, a surprise ...

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It’s not news that China is using aid to build up its influence in Southeast Asia and beyond. What’s interesting is how ultra-secretive it is being about its contributions. The NYT reported this week that Western aid officials were shocked last month to learn about a $2 billion Chinese aid package to the Philippines, a surprise because Manila is the HQ for the U.S.- and Japan-dominated Asian Development Bank.

So what is the U.S. doing to counter Chinese influence in the region? Not much. While the Chinese charm offensive involves building big infrastructure projects in Burma, Cambodia, and Vietnam, the U.S. is only now making its first port call in Cambodia since the Vietnam war. And Vietnam, a country that has been at war with China through much of its history, is desperately searching for a balancer in the U.S., which would do well to increase the feeble cooperation it promised after Rumsfeld’s visit to the country this summer.

The Chinese reach and ambition is not limited to its immediate neighborhood. As Senator Barack Obama noted after his recent trip to Africa:
One of the striking things as I was traveling through Africa: everybody said that the United States’ absence is as noticeable and prominent as the Chinese’s presence.”

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