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A majority of Southeast Asians would align with China and not the U.S. if forced to pick sides, though some countries that feel threatened by Beijing’s South China Sea claims still prefer Washington, according to a regional survey.

This is the first time Beijing has edged past Washington since 2020 when the annual survey first posed the question. The U.S. as a preferred choice dropped to 49.5% from 61.1% last year.

The survey was conducted by Singapore-based think tank ASEAN Studies Centre at ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute between Jan. 3 and Feb. 23 with 1,994 respondents from academia, business, government, civil society and the media.

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