Robert Sutter

Robert Sutter

Visiting Senior Fellow, ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute; Professor of Practice of International Affairs, Elliott School, George Washington University

Robert Goodwin Sutter, Professor of Practice of International Affairs at the Elliott School of George Washington University, is a visiting senior fellow at the ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute.

This file combination of pictures created on 8 June 2021, shows US President Joe Biden (left) and Chinese President Xi Jinping. (Mandel Ngan and Anthony Wallace/AFP)

US academic: Since Southeast Asia is undecided, the US will work with willing partners

US President Joe Biden has largely maintained his predecessor's tough approach to China in terms of containment and competition. This includes gathering allies in groupings such as the Quad and AUKUS, and being vocal about China's moves in the South China Sea, Taiwan and other areas such as climate change and trade. However, this strident approach may not be the most effective in gaining support from ASEAN, which is wary of possibly antagonising China. This gives China the advantage, at least in the Southeast Asian region, and the US may in turn rely more heavily on the Quad powers.
US Vice President Kamala Harris (second from left) prepares to depart Vietnam at Noi Bai International Airport, following her first official visit to Asia, in Hanoi on 26 August 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/AFP)

US academic: Consequences if Southeast Asia fails to align with US on China policy

The Biden administration has sought to re-engage with Southeast Asia, but there are limits to how much traction it can get in the region. And if Southeast Asian nations continue to not align with the US on countering the challenge posed by China, it is highly likely that Washington will shift its focus to like-minded actors who will coordinate with it.
US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin reviewing a Guard of Honour at Singapore's Ministry of Defence (MINDEF), 27 July 2021. (Ministry of Defence Singapore)

A tall order: US policy effort in SEA amid rising Chinese influence

The Biden administration has reinvigorated its approach towards Southeast Asia. This, however, will be limited by important US priorities and Southeast Asian reluctance to irk Beijing.
A Capitol police vehicle parks at the US Capitol in Washington, US, 22 May 2021. (Erin Scott/Reuters)

America’s negative turn against China: Role of the US Congress

In recent years, the US Congress has played a major role in America’s unprecedented turn against China. Will China prove to be the factor to bring both parties together in Congress?
In this file photo, a street artist paints a mural depicting Covid-19 coronavirus frontline workers along a street in Hanoi on 15 June 2021. (Nhac Nguyen/AFP)

American academic: US-Vietnam military relations hampered by Chinese influence

Relations between Vietnam and the United States have advanced markedly, particularly in trade and diplomatic cooperation. But bilateral military relations will continue to be stymied by Vietnam’s approach to China.
Philippine Coast Guard personnel are seen onboard rubber boats as they sail near Chinese vessels believed to be manned by Chinese maritime militia personnel at Whitsun Reef, South China Sea, in a handout photo distributed by the Philippine Coast guard 15 April 2021. (Philippine Coast Guard/Handout via Reuters)

Philippine-US cooperation on Whitsun Reef: A 'win' for the Biden team in Southeast Asia?

Southeast Asian views of the US declined during the Trump administration, and persisted into the Biden administration early on in the year. But Washington’s sustained support for Manila amid the latter’s recent confrontation with China in the South China Sea has helped to offset negative perceptions of Uncle Sam in the region.