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Graph of the Day: China’s Durian Boom Gives a Whiff of Its Economic Clout in Southeast Asia

Vietnamese exports of durian to China have increased tenfold in the last five months. Graph via VN Express

This week’s ASEAN Foreign Minister meetings will be shaped by the bloc’s complicated political relationship with China. However, that is only half the story. To fully appreciate the stakes of having to manage issues like China’s claim on large parts of the South China Sea, one has to take a look at China’s massive economic stake in the region, fueled by a dense network of free trade deals. As ASEAN becomes richer on the back of increased manufacturing, China’s dual role as an investor and market will only become more central.

Take durian, for example. Chinese tourists have been avoiding trips to neighboring countries due to domestic economic woes, but they’re clearly compensating with a little Southeast Asian treat at home. Imports of durian from regional agricultural centers like Thailand and Vietnam have skyrocketed during the last few months.

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