ASEAN expresses resistance to picking sides

Leaders of ASEAN, high-ranking officials, and specialists have expressed their disapproval at being forced to choose a side in the competition between powerful nations. Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim stated that Malaysia should be cordial with China and that the United States and some of its allies should not prevent this from happening during the 2024 ASEAN-Australia Special Summit in Melbourne. “We do not have a problem with China,” Anwar declared at a joint press conference alongside Anthony Albanese, the prime minister of Australia.

 

In reaction to US critiques of Kuala Lumpur’s ties with Beijing, Anwar recently spoke with the Financial Times and criticized what he saw as growing “China-phobia” among the US and some of its allies. He questioned why Malaysia would “pick a quarrel” with its greatest trading partner. At the press conference in Melbourne, Anwar stated, “My reference to China-phobia is because (of) the criticism levied against us for giving additional focus to China.” Anwar emphasized that his nation did not wish to “be dictated by any force” and is “fiercely independent”. “So, once we remain to be an important friend to the US or Europe and here in Australia, they should not preclude us from being friendly to one of our important neighbors, precisely China,” Anwar stated.

 

Additionally, Australian media was informed by ASEAN Secretary-General Kao Kim Hourn that the regional body will never take a position in a rivalry between large nations. The Australian Financial Review cited Kao as saying, “Whether you call it strategic dynamics, strategic competition, or strategic rivalry, all of us would like to see the US and China improve their relations.” On the fringes of the summit, he stated, “There’s always competition there, but how we manage the relationship strategically is very important,” emphasizing that ASEAN must not take peace and prosperity for granted. The director of East China Normal University’s Australian Studies Center in Shanghai, Chen Hong, stressed the need of ASEAN nations taking a logical stance in their dealings with China and other allies.

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