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Southeast Asians swing towards China alignment as pro-Israel bias hurts US, new survey shows

“This extends beyond the fact that there are large Muslim populations in Southeast Asia. US willingness to hold up and veto UN processes looking at Israeli behaviour have decreased trust in Washington’s commitment to the current rules-based international order,” Chong said.

China saw a significant surge in popularity among respondents, with 50.5 per cent indicating that the Asian giant is their preferred choice of alignment compared with the US, up from 38.9 per cent a year earlier.

Conversely, the US saw a drop in popularity from 61.1 per cent last year to 49.5 per cent in the latest study.

China’s influence in the region was expected to “grow in the years to come if there is no balancer in the region”, said Sharon Seah, a senior fellow and coordinator of Asean studies at ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute.

“However, China’s ‘popularity’ is not matched by soft-power influence. The level of trust in China to ‘do the right thing’ has dropped, while the level of distrust saw a slight increase. Among those who distrust China, the most cited reason has to do with the fear of China’s military and economic power being used to threaten countries’ sovereignty,” said Seah, one of the researchers in the study.

Nonetheless, it was worthwhile noting the shift in a “binary choice question” among respondents, she said.

“Its [Washington’s] backing from these countries has generally waned, except for the Philippines, which experienced a notable increase in confidence in the US, rising from 78.8 per cent last year to an all-time high of 83.3 per cent this year,” the study said.

However, this is a “variable and not a constant”, according to Chong.

“A lot will rest on what [China] does. Just as Beijing’s support for Russian aggression toward Ukraine