Bridget Welsh is Associate Professor of Political Science at John Cabot University. Bridget believes that nowadays ordinary Southeast Asians have negative perceptions of China. She argues that this trend is noticeable through the lens of the elections: in Malaysia, China was a very important theme during the campaign, the same in Indonesia and in the Philippines. According to Bridget, China is clearly facing a political backlash on Southeast Asia.
That is the reason why ASEAN countries are in desperate need to diversify and to seek different strong economic partnerships with other actors in the world stage. Among them, European countries can be an alternative and more reliable player than China. On the one hand, bilateral economic partnerships are flourishing, especially with countries like France, UK, Italy and Germany. On the other hand, a holistic and strategic partnership between ASEAN and EU will face hurdles, principally due to the unwillingness of the EU officials to compromise over palm oil production in Malaysia and Indonesia. According to Bridget, the EU-ASEAN strategic partnership is currently going nowhere.