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Jonathan Stromseth and Hunter Marston, ‘Democracy at a Crossroads in Southeast Asia: Great Power Rivalry Meets Domestic Governance’, Policy Brief, Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, February 2019.
This paper explores how growing geopolitical competition in Asia, increasingly defined by Sino-US rivalry, is affecting governance trends in Southeast Asian countries. The paper begins by describing the geopolitical context itself—especially China’s rising influence and related policy initiatives in the region, as well as changes in US policy toward Southeast Asia under the Trump administration. Then the paper examines how this competition is affecting two states in Southeast Asia representing different population sizes and regime types: Cambodia (small and increasingly autocratic) and Myanmar (medium-sized and struggling with democratic transition and consolidation). Finally, the paper concludes by assessing the relative weight of these external drivers on domestic governance trends in the region, as compared to long-present domestic currents within the countries themselves.