China surpasses US as preferred superpower in Southeast Asia, survey shows

A survey by a Singapore-based think tank shows that more people in Southeast Asian countries would opt for China over the United States if forced to choose between the two superpowers.

This marks the first time China surpassed the US in the survey.

ISEAS, or the Yusof Ishak Institute, released the results of its survey on Tuesday. About 2,000 researchers, government officials and others participated from the 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN.

When asked to choose between the US and China if the region were forced to align itself with one of the strategic rivals, 49.5 percent opted for the US, while 50.5 percent picked China.

Compared with last year, there was an 11.6 percentage point increase in respondents who chose China.

Malaysia, Indonesia and Laos saw their preference for China rise by over 20 points. The percentage of those who chose China was highest in Malaysia, at 75.1 percent, followed by Indonesia, at 73.2 percent, and Laos, at 70.6 percent.

The think tank said these countries "have benefitted significantly from China's Belt and Road Initiative and robust trade and investment relations."

But the survey also showed that the percentage of those who preferred the US was still higher in the Philippines, Vietnam and Singapore, reflecting territorial disputes with China in the South China Sea.

Meanwhile, Japan remained the most trusted major power, with 58.9 percent of respondents expressing confidence in the country, surpassing levels for the United States, China, India and the European Union.