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

Southeast Asia is arguably the most diverse region in the world. Accordingly, rather than addressing the exact same question, the contributors to this volume have — as experts on Southeast Asia-China relations — explored the matters they see as most important and most deserving of exploration and exposure. After the editor’s introduction, the chapters proceed in pairs. Each pair and a closing chapter cover a distinctive theme in Southeast Asia’s interactions with China.

Featured among the historical and economic contexts needed to understand the interactions are security and development as Chinese goals and how diversified beyond China Southeast Asia’s trading partners are. Southeast Asian and Chinese perceptions of each other are examined using survey research and by asking whether China views the region as its “strategic backyard.” Two actual or intended expansions are analyzed: expanded Chinese sovereignty over the South China Sea and Beijing’s interest in using “overseas Chinese” to expand its influence in the region. The chapters on strategies analyze the very different ways of approaching China preferred by Singapore and Indonesia. Rather than documenting the obvious inequalities of size and power between China on the one hand and Cambodia and Laos on the other, the essays on disparities show how relations with China interact with asymmetries inside these two states. Policy implications of differing distances are drawn in the pieces on how Southeast Asia’s proximity to China affects the prospect of Chinese regional dominance as compared with far-off America’s role and as seen through the lens of Beijing’s far-flung Maritime Silk Road. A final chapter on a seventh theme features a Myanmar analyst’s retrospection on myths and illusions that have arisen to cloud how that country’s relations with China are interpreted, with possible implications for understanding Sino-Southeast Asian dealings with China more broadly.

Learn more about the book and listen to a podcast conversation with Donald K. Emmerson >> 


"The Deer and the Dragon offers a novel contribution to studies of China–Southeast Asia relations from a diverse set of voices, inviting the authors into an enriching conversation with one another. It also provides a welcome riposte to prevailing depictions of Southeast Asia as either powerless to challenge a rising China or as mere pawns in a great game between Beijing and Washington."
— Hunter Marston, Journal of Asian Security and International Affairs (Vol. 8, Issue 2, July 2021)

"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.”
— Yun Sun, Contemporary Southeast Asia (vol. 42, no. 3, Dec 2020)

"[T]his rich compilation unearths multiple dimensions of China’s geo-economic and geo-strategic intentions in Southeast Asia, while speaking to the dynamics of power and agency [...] It will be invaluable for scholars of Southeast Asia looking to understand China’s past, future and present interactions with the region."
— Anna Buckley, Security Challenges (Vol. 16, no. 4, Dec. 2020)

"As China’s relations with most of its southern neighbors deteriorate, there is a crying need for a detailed, nuanced study to explain why. The Deer and the Dragon is the book we have been waiting for. Its diverse points of view, depth of research, and sophistication of analysis make the book essential reading."
— Nayan Chanda, Global Asia

“The authors of this commendably well-edited book are among the finest experts on China’s relations with Southeast Asia.  The result does justice both to the complex and multifaceted nature of China’s regional influence and to the diversity and increasing self-assertiveness of its southern neighbors, who are far from mere pawns in a game of chess between big powers.”
Richard Heydarian, author of The Indo-Pacific: Trump, China, and the New Struggle for Global Mastery