China & ASEAN: New Avenues of Cooperation and Competition

China Monitor - Issue 20 - Jul-2007July 2007 – Issue 20

In the late 1990’s, a serious debate was gripping the Southeast Asian region. It was over the impact China’s economic rise would have on the economies of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), not too dissimilar to the debates that are raging amongst Africans and international observes of China’s commercial engagement of the African continent.

Former Singaporean Prime Minister, Goh Chok Tong said in 1998 that China was simultaneously the greatest competitive challenge and economic opportunity for Singapore. Ten years later, the region has successfully positioned itself vis-à-vis China – engaging Chinese business rather than protecting against it. Singapore has arguably been the most successful economy in the region to embrace the Chinese growth phenomenon. Thailand and Malaysia are not far behind. And their manufacturing industries are booming – over one third of Singapore’s GDP is from its manufacturing sector. Who says
China will dominate global manufacturing?

Southeast Asia no longer enjoys the double digit economic growth rates of the early to mid-nineties. But its current strong growth – albeit lesser than before – is sustainable and is due to demand from China. African economies are facing the same issues that Southeast Asia did a decade ago. Will Africans choose to engage Chinese competition or protect against it?

Download PDF – China Monitor – Issue 20 – Jul 2007