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Sunday, September 25, 2022

The 2020 US elections matter to the ASEAN

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Paul Tena
Paul Tena is an alumnus of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines. He currently serves as Editor-in-Chief of Politixxx Today and he also traverses into fiction writing in his spare time. Sometimes he goes by his pen name JPE Tena. His debut novel, The Lore Kingdom, was named an Honorable Mention in 2021 Lampara Prize. For more information, you may reach him via tenajpe@gmail.com.

We refer to this global powerhouse state as the land of the free, the home of the brave, the United States. However you want to address the US of A, one thing’s certain: the US election this year is crucial to the world–especially to the member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

You might ask, “But why?”

A Little Throwback

Well, as early as 2008, pundits have been debating on who will be the world’s most powerful country around the 2020s. The choices are a no-brainer. It’s either the US or China. But first, let’s put the matters into perspective.

China’s economic growth is unprecedented.  In fact, it’s frighteningly fast. They now have tons of billionaires and tech companies that can rival the western world, and of course, influence over countries that have– directly or indirectly–loaned something from the country dubbed as the Sleeping Giant.  Mind you, considering the secretive culture of Chinese tycoons, plus its restrictive governmental policies, I bet, we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg.

Though the battle of global supremacy is still subject to debate, the gargantuan country of the East is barely asleep.  It’s beyond dispute that we can now feel how it flexes its power.

By contrast, American influence remains steady. We can still see how American power shapes the way the world goes round. We see it in looming global conflicts, economic impact, and technological advancement. It’s impossible to discredit the American power even if one argues over their catastrophic management of the spread of COVID-19.

The Dispute

As we know several ASEAN countries claim territory over the South China Sea. But that is not even a problem. The true challenge lies in China’s nine-dash claim over the disputed territory.

Despite being a ten-member state in its league, the ASEAN can barely assert its claim over China’s power. To top it all, every member state has an interest to prioritize. Meanwhile, we stand helpless in the continuous expansion and strengthening of forces of China in the South China Sea.

Given the situation, the US intervention will be favorable on the part of the ASEAN. Although the possibility of a conflict is there, at least, the US presence can help in toning down China’s encroachment of the disputed territories.

America’s Status Quo

President Donald Trump vowed to have a stronger stance on the unrest. Although throughout his tenure, we can barely felt his strong position in the matter. Perhaps, given a shot for a second term, the US President might soak his fingers deeper into the complex issue of territorial dispute.

On the other hand, aspiring President and erstwhile Vice President Joe Biden state that he, too, will push for negotiation on the matter. Though a promise of a different approach, we can see that both President Trump and former Vice President Biden concede to the idea that the US plays a crucial role–or interest, even–on a place that way far from their land.

Looking Forward

Whatever the result of the US election in November will be, surely, there will be an impact on Southeast Asia. We can see that both Democrat and Republican camps take note of their roles in reaching a peaceful consensus over the important trade route. One can see this as protection of their interest as well.

For now, ASEAN member states can still push for each of their agenda in the hopes that China will listen. The odds may be against the ASEAN, but as we witness the US election unfold, we can expect another chapter of power-play between two of the most powerful countries in the world.

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