chapter  27
15 Pages

Unequal rivals

China, India, and the struggle for influence in Southeast Asia
WithSheryn Lee

China and India both harbor great power ambitions in the Indo-Pacific and having leverage power to influence Southeast Asia is part of that vision. To this end, China is pursuing a twofold strategy of financial diplomacy via its Belt and Road Initiative and comprehensive military modernization. On the one hand, it has used this leverage to gain political influence in mainland Southeast Asia and, on the other hand, to deter unwanted behavior by other claimant maritime states in the South China Sea. India, aware of its waning influence in continental South and Southeast Asia, has responded by announcing rival investment projects and upgrading its economic ties to security partnerships. Although it has made an effort in defense diplomacy and there are shifts in its strategic thinking, its resources and capabilities remain limited in comparison to China. Also, due to New Delhi’s own concerns for maintaining commercial and amicable ties with Beijing, it wishes to avoid the perception that India views China as a threat.