In long-term strategic competition with China, how effectively the United States works with allies and partners will be critical to determining U.S. success. The authors of this report define U.S.-China competition for influence and assess relative U.S.-Chinese influence in nine countries across the Indo-Pacific to gain insight into how the United States could work more effectively with allies and partners in Southeast Asia and beyond.
U.S.-China Competition in the Indo-Pacific
Photo by U.S. Navy
U.S. policymakers and experts are focused on two central questions about long-term strategic competition between the United States and the People's Republic of China (PRC): How do we assess how well the United States is doing relative to China, and which country has more influence in the Indo-Pacific region?
RAND Project AIR FORCE researchers addressed these questions by first defining what influence means in the context of great-power competition and creating a framework to measure U.S. versus PRC influence. The result brings into focus a well-defined picture of the United States and China's strengths and weaknesses in third countries in the Indo-Pacific. Overall, neither the United States nor China is clearly "winning" the competition for influence in the Indo-Pacific region as whole, and they have varying levels of influence across countries. U.S. influence is greater in Australia, India, Japan, the Philippines, and Singapore than in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam.