The Deer and the Dragon: Southeast Asia and China in the 21st Century

The Deer and the Dragon: Southeast Asia and China in the 21st Century
Date of publication:  2020
Publisher:  Shorenstein APARC / ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute
Number of pages:  394
Code:  BM605
Soft Cover
ISBN: 9789814951166
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Yun Sun, Contemporary Southeast Asia 42:3, Dec 2020.

"In The Deer and the Dragon, Emmerson, one of the most eminent thinkers on Southeast Asia, has rallied an army of top regional experts to examine the nature, dynamics and implications of the power asymmetries between China and the countries of Southeast Asia. In the region's folklore, the motif of the mouse-deer and dragon represents the triumph of brain over brawn. Drawing from that analogy, the book critically investigates the myths and realities of China's preponderance in the region to draw attention to how Southeast Asian countries have been adept at employing strategies such as hedging and balancing to counter China, while also leveraging regional organizations and mechanisms to maximise their strategic autonomy. 

The Deer and the Dragon provides a sobering reality check on several key fronts. It examines regional perceptions of China and the United States while identifying their respective leadership deficiencies as Great Powers. It challenges the conventional wisdom that Southeast Asia is China's "strategic backyard", highlighting the differences between Chinese aspirations for the region and Southeast Asia's resistance to China's hegemonic vision. 

In its discussion of China's bilateral relations with Singapore, Indonesia, Cambodia and Laos, as well as on the Mekong, The Deer and the Dragon brings unprecedented new insights about the depths and dimensions of these countries' relationship with China. "

About the publication

Will the nations of Southeast Asia maintain their strategic autonomy, or are they destined to become a subservient periphery of China? 

This book’s expert authors address this pressing question in multiple contexts. What clues to the future lie in the modern history of Sino-Southeast Asian relations? How economically dependent on China has the region already become? What do Southeast Asians think of China? Does Beijing view the region in proprietary terms as its own backyard? How has the relative absence, distance, and indifference of the United States affected the balance of influence between the US and China in Southeast Asia?  

The book also explores China’s moves and Southeast Asia’s responses to them. Does China’s Maritime Silk Road through Southeast Asia herald a Pax Sinica across the region? How should China’s expansionary acts in the South China Sea be understood? How have Southeast Asian states such as Vietnam and the Philippines responded? How does Singapore’s China strategy compare with Indonesia’s? How relevant is the Association of Southeast Asian Nations? To what extent has China tried to persuade the “overseas Chinese” in Southeast Asia to identify with “the motherland” and support its aims? How are China’s deep involvements in Cambodia and Laos affecting the economies and policies of those countries? 

“This rich collection,” writes renowned author-journalist Nayan Chanda, answers these and other questions while offering “fresh insights” and “new information and analyses” to explain Southeast Asia’s relations with China.

Co-publication: Shorenstein APARC / ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute

The ISEAS edition is for sale only in Southeast Asia, Japan, India, China, Korea, Taiwan, Australia and New Zealand.


  • The Deer and the Dragon: Southeast Asia and China in the 21st Century
    [Whole Publication, ISBN: 9789814951173], by Donald K Emmerson, editor

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