ASEAN and China

Historically, Chinese culture has played an important role in relations between China and Southeast Asian countries for more than 2,000 years. Confucianism was at the heart of the dynastic Chinese state and underpinned all of its strategic engagements and regional projections of power. Consequently, China and Southeast Asian countries shared a long period of peaceful relations under the auspices of the “Middle Kingdom” and corresponding tributary systems. The peace, however, was enforced with the threat of punitive economic and/or military counter-measures should a tributary state step out of line. One could argue that even today, the historical perceptions of China remain a powerful force in shaping the modern policies of many ASEAN countries towards their giant neighbour.