China’s role in Southeast Asia is of a multi-dimensional nature and, as in the case of all small and medium powers that are forced to deal with the presence of a great power in their midst, the Southeast Asian nations have to negotiate and mediate China’s presence. The resulting conduct of foreign policy, foreign economic policy and security policy towards China is no longer based on the strategic considerations of insulated government elites, but are the result of complex decision-making processes which are also influenced by non-governmental actors. Consequently, foreign policy-makers have to reconcile international and domestic priorities and demands. Loosely based on Robert Putnam’s analytical framework of “two-level games”, this article looks at two case studies which highlight the interlinked reality of international and national agendas. First, the ASEAN-China Free Trade Area (ACFTA), which was initially and enthusiastically embraced by ASEAN for general political reasons, and second, the conflicts in the South China Sea where the Southeast Asian claimants are carefully trying to balance a multilateral approach towards China (via ASEAN) with their specific national interests.