There will be many countries, including some respectable democracies that for one reason or another won’t or can’t stand up to Beijing. The key to their independence, security and prosperity won’t be to limit China’s presence but to engage with the U.S. and others to balance Chinese influence. This is a path that will be followed by places like Singapore, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Thailand, Djibouti, Pakistan, Serbia and others.
China might not like to see the presence of other powers in these places, but these relationships should be perfectly acceptable to the United States. The U.S. doesn’t need every country to pick sides. What we should and do want is for these countries to insist that—for their own interests, as well as ours—external powers play fair. That is why, for example, the U.S., Japan and others promote the Blue Dot network, which promotes quality, transparent, and economically viable international infrastructure projects.
If anything, expect the ranks of these countries to expand. Mongolia and several Central Asian countries are looking to move in that direction.