Southeast Asia between the Superpowers: Who is Where and Why?

One of the most pressing foreign policy challenges that the ten countries of Southeast Asia (ASEAN-10) faces today and in the coming years is how to position themselves between the US and China as the geopolitical rivalry between the two superpowers intensifies. Most in Southeast Asia claim they would prefer not to have to choose between the two superpowers, but that position will become increasingly difficult to maintain as the US and China pressure states in the region to align with them. This talk will address three key questions related to this strategic dilemma: What do the strategic alignments of the ASEAN-10 look like today? What explains their alignment choices? And what are the implications of the latter for Southeast Asia, the superpowers, and the region?

Yuen Foong KHONG is Li Ka Shing Professor of Political Science at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore. He was formerly Professor of International Relations and a Professorial Fellow of Nuffield College, Oxford University. He received his PhD from Harvard University in 1987 and was Assistant/Associate Professor at Harvard University’s Government Department from 1987–1994. His dissertation received Harvard’s Sumner Prize for the best dissertation on war and peace (1988). His book, Analogies at War: Korea, Munich, Dien Bien Phu, and the Vietnam Decisions of 1965 (Princeton, 1992; sixth printing 2006; Chinese translation 2024) was co-winner of the American Political Science Association’s Political Psychology Book Award (1994). He also received the Erik Erikson Award for distinguished early career contribution to political psychology in 1996. From 1988–2000, he served as Deputy Director and Director of the Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.