Australian media: Pompeo lobbies against China, Southeast Asia doesn’t even buy it

The Trump administration has tried to convince Southeast Asian countries to counterbalance China. But those efforts didn’t work, and US Secretary of State Pompeo’s visit to Jakarta is unlikely to change that. That’s the view of prominent analysts – Indonesia is very clear that it doesn’t want to choose sides in the US-China rivalry.

Aaron Connelly, a research fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in Singapore, said Pompeo’s emphasis on competition with China is not popular in the region, and “you can’t identify a single country in Southeast Asia that would be willing to engage in Trump’s China line.” “One reason is that Southeast Asia sees the legitimacy of the U.S. trying to erase Chinese power …… but they see the U.S. strategy and don’t know how it will end up. Second, for Southeast Asia, the South China Sea is a domestic political issue. The third reason is economic and trade”.

China is Indonesia’s main trading partner and is a major source of foreign investment for it. Indonesia is also counting on Chinese vaccines to help it contain the epidemic. Indonesia’s foreign minister said last month, “We don’t want to get involved in the (U.S.-China) competition.” Indonesia’s former ambassador to the U.S., Dino Jarrar, recently wrote a sharply worded article pointing out that the U.S. anti-China escalation to new heights is not recognized by Southeast Asia, many of which depend on China for new crown vaccines and economic investment. Gregg Poling, director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, argues that Indonesia will never join a “coalition of four” type (anti-China) grouping.