The ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute, affiliated with the Singapore government, recently polled 1,008 respondents from all ten nations of the ASEAN grouping across different sections of society to gauge attitudes towards the BRI. While nearly half the respondents said President Xi Jinping's hallmark Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) would bring ASEAN "closer into China's orbit," a large majority, or 70 percent, said their governments "should be cautious in negotiating BRI projects, to avoid getting into unsustainable financial debts with China." The latter view was strongest in Malaysia, the Philippines, and Thailand. China was seen by 73 percent of the respondents as having the greatest economic influence in the region and was also believed to have more influence politically and strategically than the United States. Fewer than one in 10 saw China as "a benign and benevolent power," with nearly a half saying Beijing possessed "an intent to turn Southeast Asia into its sphere of influence." Six out of 10 respondents said U.S. influence globally had deteriorated from a year ago and two-thirds believed U.S. engagement with Southeast Asia declined. About a third said they had little or no confidence in the U.S. as a strategic partner and provider of regional security.

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