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U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, "Hearing on China's Relations with Southeast Asia," May 13, 2015

This hearing was conducted by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission on May 13, 2015. The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission was created by the U.S. Congress in 2000 to monitor, investigate, and submit to Congress an annual report on the national security implications of the economic relationship between the United States and the People’s Republic of China.
May 13, 2015

Wednesday, May 13, 2015
608 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC

Hearing Co-Chairs: Commissioner Carolyn Bartholomew and Commissioner Daniel M. Slane


Good morning, everyone. Welcome to the sixth hearing of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission's 2015 Annual Report cycle. Thank you all for joining us today.

Today's hearing will focus on key developments in the security, diplomatic and economic spheres of China's relations with countries in Southeast Asia and with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN.

It will seek to understand how China's relations with the region may be changing and the implications of developments in China-Southeast Asia relations for the United States.

Among the security and geopolitical challenges in Southeast Asia, the South China Sea disputes are some of the most contentious. In recent years, China has taken a more assertive, some would say aggressive, approach to its territorial claims in the South China Sea. Beijing has sought to advance these claims through deploying various civilian and military maritime actors and through land reclamation and construction on the land features that it controls, among other means.

China's actions are causing countries in the region and the United States to question whether China will be a peaceful and cooperative regional and global partner and are increasing the risk of regional instability and even an armed conflict, which could involve the United States.

Since 2014, China has dramatically increased its land reclamation and construction activities in the Spratly Islands. Just last week, the Pentagon revealed China had added 1,500 acres to its South China Sea outposts since last December. These land reclamation and associated infrastructure improvement projects pose challenges to international law and global norms, and I would note that just yesterday, of course, the Wall Street Journal reported that the U.S. military is proposing challenges to China's sea claims. The Chinese are also enhancing their ability to sustain military and maritime law enforcement presence in the South China Sea.

These developments underscore the importance of a robust U.S. military presence in the Asia Pacific and of U.S. efforts to partner with regional countries to enhance their capacity in areas such as maritime domain awareness.

To help us understand China's approach to the South China Sea disputes and other key aspects of China's relations with Southeast Asia, we have invited a distinguished group of witnesses to participate in this hearing.

Before I turn the floor over to my co-chair for this hearing, Commissioner Dan Slane, for his opening comments, I would like to thank Chairman Enzi and the staff of the Senate Budget Committee for securing this room for us today, and I'll just remind all of our witnesses to please make sure that you--and my colleagues--that your microphones are on when you speak so that our transcriptionist is able to capture your comments.

Commissioner Slane.


Thank you, Commissioner Bartholomew, and welcome everyone.

China views economic integration with Southeast Asia as key to its own economic growth and has established several diplomatic initiatives, including the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, to support these integrations. China's engagement with Southeast Asia in areas such as international trade, finance, and infrastructure development has the potential to complement U.S. engagement in the area.

However, concerns exist that China's strategy may be to supplement existing international economic institutions in favor of economic architecture under its own leadership that falls short of global standards, transparency, labor rights, and environmental protection. We hope that China's efforts to integrate with Southeast Asia economically will be built on such high standards and not undermine the integrity of existing economic institutions.

Despite efforts at multilateral cooperation in the region, China's bilateral engagement with Southeast Asian countries remains a pivotal component of its regional foreign policy. While China has expressed an interest in serving as a more responsible stakeholder in the global forums, it also worries that multilateralism will limit its leverage to fulfil its own national interest.

Through bilateral engagement in Southeast Asia, China is attempting to create a regional landscape in which it plays an increasingly dominant role where its interests may be served more directly.

Given the importance of bilateral engagement in China's Southeast Asian policy, we will be looking closely at its relationship with three key nations--Burma, Malaysia and Vietnam--later in our hearing today.

I'd like to remind the members of our audience that today's hearings will be webcast on the Commission's Web site, where all the written statements submitted for the record are also available. A transcript of today's hearing will be published on our Web site at later date.

Panel I: Security Dimensions of China’s Relations with Southeast Asia
Bonnie Glaser, Senior Adviser for Asia, Freeman Chair in China Studies and Senior Associate, Pacific Forum, Center for Strategic and International Studies
Mira Rapp Hooper, Fellow, Asia Program, and Director, Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, Center for Strategic and International Studies
Patrick Cronin, Senior Advisor and Senior Director, Asia-Pacific Security Program, Center for a New American Security
Chin-Hao Huang, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Yale-NUS College
Peter Chalk, Adjunct Senior Analyst, RAND Corporation

Panel II: Diplomatic and Economic Issues in China’s Relations with Southeast Asia
Robert Sutter, Professor of Practice of International Affairs, Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University
Meredith Miller, Senior Vice President of Trade, Economic, and Energy Affairs and Director of the Washington, D.C. office, National Bureau of Asian Research
David Dapice, Economist, Vietnam Program, Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

Panel III: China’s Relations with Burma, Malaysia, and Vietnam
Priscilla Clapp, Senior Advisor, U.S. Institute of Peace and the Asia Society
Pek Koon Heng, Director of the ASEAN Studies Initiative and Assistant Professor, School of International Service, American University
Murray Hiebert, Deputy Director and Senior Fellow, Sumitro Chair for Southeast Asia Studies, Center for Strategic and International Studies

See a video of the hearing here:



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