China is more influential than the United States in a number of measures in Southeast Asia and has increased its lead over the past five years.
- The United States has lost influence to China in Southeast Asia over the past five years in all four categories measured by the Asia Power Index: economic relationships, defence networks, diplomatic influence and cultural influence.
- The United States is more influential than China in two countries: the Philippines and Singapore. China’s influence is strongest in Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar.
- Compared to China, the United States still has much stronger defence relationships with countries in Southeast Asia. But China increased its lead over the United States in terms of economic relationships with Southeast Asia.
Overall influence of China and the United States in Southeast Asia
In the last five years, China has increased the overall margin of its influence compared to the United States in Southeast Asia. In 2018, China led the United States 52–48 for influence in the region. In 2022, this lead increased to 54–46.
Applying a new methodology to the data collected by the Lowy Institute for the Asia Power Index between 2018 and 2022, this report yields an in-depth analysis of the relative influence of the two countries in Southeast Asia. These patterns of influence form part of the broad context in which Southeast Asian countries make their strategic choices.
Asia Power Index methodology measures influence across four categories: economic relationships, defence networks, diplomatic influence and cultural influence. A total of 100 points is available in each measure, with points assigned to the United States and China based on their relative performance (for further information, see Methodology).