China-Southeast Asia Relations: Trends, Issues, and Implications for the United States [Updated April 4, 2006] [open pdf - 229KB]
"China's developing relationship with Southeast Asia is undergoing a significant shift. This will likely have implications for United States' interests in the region. While the United States has been focused on Iraq and Afghanistan, China has been evolving its external engagement with its neighbors, particularly in Southeast Asia. In the 1990s, China was perceived as a threat to its Southeast Asian neighbors in part due to its conflicting territorial claims over the South China Sea and past support of communist insurgency. This perception began to change in the wake of the Asian financial crisis of 1997/98 when China resisted pressure to devalue its currency while the currencies of its neighbors were in free fall. Today, China's 'charm offensive' has downplayed territorial disputes while focusing on trade relations with Southeast Asia which are viewed by some as the catalyst for expanding political and security linkages. In November 2004, China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN includes Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam) agreed to gradually remove tariffs and create the world's largest free trade area by 2010. China is also beginning to develop bilateral and multilateral security relationships with Southeast Asian states."
CRS Report for Congress, RL32688