"Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and the Sultan of Johor are seen in a blue Proton Saga... "When asked whether there is any tension with the sultan, Dr Mahathir said: “No, I don’t see anything because I went to see him and he drove me to the airport. I don’t want to comment on the sultans because if I say anything that is not good then it’s not nice because he is the sultan”"

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Friday, January 18, 2019

Southeast Asian Elites on China

In The News: "State of Southeast Asia: 2019" Survey - ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute

"The "State of Southeast Asia: 2019” survey was conducted by the ASEAN Studies Centre at ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute between 18 November and 5 December 2018. The survey assessed the views of over 1,000 Southeast Asians on the region’s strategic and economic situation in 2019, as well as views on major power engagement in the region"

From the report:

"The ASEAN Studies Centre at ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute conducted the “State of Southeast Asia: 2019” online survey between 18 November and 5 December 2018 to seek the views of Southeast Asians on regional affairs. The survey used the purposive sampling method, canvassing views from a total of 1,008 Southeast Asians who are regional experts and stakeholders from the policy, research, business, civil society, and media communities. As such, the results of this survey are not meant to be representative. Rather, it aims to present a general view of prevailing attitudes among those in a position to inform or influence policy on regional political, economic and social issues and concerns...

The respondents were asked to share their views on China’s re-emergence as a major power with respect to Southeast Asia. Most respondents (45.4%) think “China will become a revisionist power with an intent to turn Southeast Asia into its sphere of infuence.” This is the top response in six ASEAN member states: the Philippines (66.4%), Vietnam (60.7%), Singapore (57%), Cambodia (50%), Thailand (45.1%), and Indonesia (37.7%)...

Less than one in ten respondents (8.9%) sees China as “a benign and benevolent power.” Country-level results paint an equally pessimistic picture of China with only four countries breaking into modest double digits for this response: Laos (13.8%), Myanmar (13.1%), Cambodia (12.5%) and Indonesia (12.3%). This result, coupled with the majority view that China will be a revisionist power, is a wake-up call for China to burnish its negative image across Southeast Asia despite Beijing’s repeated assurance of its benign and peaceful rise...

Respondents from countries having BRI projects or are negotiating BRI projects (i.e. all ASEAN member states except Singapore) were then invited to comment on the lessons to be drawn for their respective country from past BRI projects, in particular the Hambantota port in Sri Lanka and the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) in Malaysia. The overwhelming majority of the respondents (70%) opine that their government “should be cautious in negotiating BRI projects, to avoid getting into unsustainable financial debts with China.”...

The majority of the respondents (51.5%) have either little (35.5%) or no confidence (16%) that China will “do the right thing” in contributing to global peace, security, prosperity and governance. Less than one in five respondents (19.6%) has positive views on China in this respect, with 17.9% and 1.7% of the respondents respectively indicating their “confidence” and “high confidence.” The top three countries with negative views on China are Vietnam (73.4%), the Philippines (66.6%) and Indonesia (60.9%). It is noteworthy that the degree of trust in China among the respondents from Cambodia – largely seen as a “China-leaning” state – is low. More than half of Cambodian respondents (58.3%) have little or no confidence in China, outnumbering the positive views (20.9%) by more than two to one. Bucking this trend of negative views is Laos where 41.3% of the respondents are either confident or very confident that China will “do the right thing.” Laos is the only country to register more than 30% positive views on China, followed by Brunei (26.6%) and Malaysia (25%)...

Japan is viewed most favourably by Southeast Asians. Nearly two-thirds of all respondents (65.9%) are either “confident” (53.5%) or “very confident” (12.4%) that Japan will “do the right thing” in global affairs. The percentage of 65.9% is the highest among all major powers, effectively earning Japan the mantle of the most trusted major power in the region...

Southeast Asians’ perceptions of the US are gloomy. 50.6% of the respondents have “little confidence” (36%) or “no confidence” (14.6%) in the US to “do the right thing” in global affairs...

How confident are you that... will "do the right thing” in contributing to global peace,security, prosperity and governance?

... The last cluster of questions in the survey look at the application of soft power in the region, namely: (a) Which country would be your first choice if you (or your child) were offered a scholarship to a university?; (b) Which country is your favourite destination to visit, or would like to visit in the near future; and (c) Which foreign language do you think is the most useful and beneficial for your work and professional development? Collectively, these three indicators provide some insights on the strength of soft power...

The top choice for tertiary education is the US with about one third of the respondents (31.5%) choosing American universities as their most preferred destination. America’s popularity is followed by the EU (28.4%), Australia (21.2%) and Japan (12.4%). More Southeast Asians prefer an ASEAN member state (3.5%) over China (2.7%) for their higher education...

Europe is Southeast Asians’ dream vacation destination with 34% respondents selecting a European country as their favourite spot. About one in four respondents (26.2%) looks forward to experiencing Japan in their travel plan. Rounding up the top three travel destinations is an ASEAN member state (11.7%). The fact that ASEAN edges out what are thought to be more popular destinations such as the US (11.4%), Australia (10.7%), China (4.1%) and India (1.9%) is a healthy sign that Southeast Asians are gaining a sense of regional affinity and show a higher interest in their ASEAN neighbours. Europe is the most popular tourist destination among the respondents in all ASEAN member states except Singapore and Thailand, which prefer Japan above all others...

The English language is the most popular foreign language in the region. An overwhelming majority (91.3%) of the respondents consider it “the most useful and beneficial for their work and professional development.” 44.7% consider Mandarin to be “useful and beneficial”, much lower than English but not an insignificant number, which speaks to China’s growing economic, political and cultural inf luence and the increasing use of Mandarin in trade, commerce and tourism in the region. The recognition of the importance of Mandarin is highest in Singapore (71.1%), Brunei (62.2%), Malaysia (55.9%) and Indonesia (54%)...

From a micro perspective, the results of this survey suggest that Chinese soft power penetration in mainland Southeast Asia (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam) is surprisingly low despite the popular belief that these countries have a closer cultural affinity with China. Chinese universities are the least preferred choice for higher education among respondents from Myanmar and Vietnam. In terms of tourism appeal, China ranks the second last, before only India. China’s most potent soft power tool is the Mandarin language. Even then, the number of respondents in mainland Southeast Asia choosing Mandarin as the “most useful and beneficial foreign language” is surprisingly lower than in maritime Southeast Asia: Thailand (49.1%), Cambodia (37.5%), Laos (24.1%), Vietnam (27.6%) and Myanmar (18.7%). The low appeal of Chinese education institutions and tourism and moderate interest in its national language are critical soft power challenges for China in the region. However, we caution the readers to digest these findings with the caveat that elite thinking may not necessarily reflect popular views."


The US is still more trusted than China, with 27.3% confident or very confident it will do the right thing (vs 19.6% for China). Meanwhile more (16%) have no confidence in China doing the right thing (vs 14.6% for the US)

In other words, Southeast Asian elites have been brainwashed by the biased Western Media into rejecting China's challenge of White Supremacy in the form of a Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.
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