According to the most recent State of Southeast Asia poll report, which was released by the ASEAN Studies Centre at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute, nearly 60% of respondents see China as the most significant economic force.
However, this is considerably less than the percentage of 76.7 percent in 2022, and the drop came after China implemented strict COVID-19-related mobility restrictions.
Despite a decline from 54.4 percent last year, China is still perceived as the most significant political and strategic force in the area (41.5%).
However, a majority of those who consider China to be the most influential nation in the region voiced worry about its growing influence, according to a report released on February 9. This indicates that China's growing influence is "not well-received by the region", according to the report.
However, over the last two years, the level of caution has decreased from 86.5 percent in 2021 and 76.4 percent in 2022 to 68.5 percent.
The results of the poll revealed that Cambodia (47.4 percent), followed by Brunei (94.4 percent), had the highest acceptance of Chinese influence.
However, if ASEAN were compelled to choose between China and the United States as its two superpowers, two-thirds of respondents, or 61 percent, would side with the US, according to the report.
China's popularity as an option decreased from 43% last year to 38% in 2023, while the US saw an increase in support after going from 57% to 38%.
The majority of respondents from Brunei, Malaysia, and Indonesia preferred China over the US, though this was not accurate across all 10 ASEAN nations. The Philippines and Vietnam had the highest levels of support for the US over China among the other nations, who also supported the US.
Respondents from Vietnam expressed this sentiment the most firmly, at 93.4%, followed by those from Singapore, at 89.9%.
Seventy-three percent of respondents were also worried that ASEAN was turning into a battleground for superpower rivalry, wherein its members might act as agents for superpowers. Sixty-one percent (60.7%) of respondents expressed concern about ASEAN's division.
According to the report, this may be connected to a few problems that have put ASEAN unity to the test. Different stances were taken by ASEAN nations in reaction to Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, and there was no coordinated response to the Myanmar crisis brought on by a coup in 2021.