U.S. foreign policy on Southeast Asia has long focused on strong defense and security ties. But with the United States increasingly regarding China as “attempting to erode American security and prosperity," the White House has been looking at new ways to bolster alliances and partnerships to counter China’s growing influence in this region.

Washington’s new strategy became apparent in Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s recent trip to Malaysia and Indonesia, where he outlined plans to deepen economic engagement with Southeast Asia, while presenting the U.S. as the better alternative of the two.

Speaking in Kuala Lumpur in mid-December, Blinken spoke of more investment opportunities for U.S. firms in Malaysia, particularly in the energy sector and semiconductor supply chains, in addition to highlighting America’s assistance on defense.