Chinese President Xi Jinping, (L), gestures to Singaporean president Tony Tan Keng Yam, (R), as they arrive for a bilateral signing ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on July 3, 2015. AFP PHOTO / POOL / Mark Schiefelbein
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In January 2007, not long after George W. Bush announced his surge of troops into Iraq, I happened to be having lunch with a Chinese friend who is a well-connected member of the Communist Party.As ISIS, Iran and Greece occupy the attention of the Western world, China marches forward, except now it is not just building its economy but also a new geopolitics in Asia.A senior Southeast Asian diplomat explained to me that China is using money and pressure to "suborn" countries in the region.In smaller countries like Cambodia and Laos, Chinese money dominates the economy.Politicians in Singapore told me that Beijing has even begun to reach out to local Singaporeans of Chinese descent and to nudge the city-state's foreign policy – which remains staunchly allied to the United States – in a more pro-Chinese direction.What makes dealing with China's growing influence in Asia especially tricky is that a good part of it is inevitable and could be benign. China is the largest trading partner of almost all Asian economies, even Australia. Countries here are looking to the United States to deter China but yet engage it.
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