Showing posts with label South East Asia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label South East Asia. Show all posts

16 June 2020

Powers, Norms, and Institutions: The Future of the Indo-Pacific from a Southeast Asia Perspective

Situated at the heart of the Indo-Pacific, Southeast Asia has, in recent years, become the bellwether for the region, including the future of democratic governance. External powers, including the United States and China, have ramped up engagement with Southeast Asia and now compete for influence in the region. Amid these geopolitical shifts, Southeast Asian perspectives on dynamics that will shape the future of the region more than ever before.

In late 2019, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) conducted a survey of strategic elites in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand as well as Fiji to understand how the region views trends related to power, norms, and institutions. In early 2020, CSIS conducted extensive analysis of the survey data and convened a workshop in Sydney, Australia, to further examine the results with leading experts from the countries surveyed, as well as Australia and the United States. This report presents key findings from the survey and workshop on the strategic landscape in Southeast Asia and the future of power and influence and challenges faced by the region.

22 April 2020

Can Southeast Asia Fend Off the One-Two Punch of COVID-19?

Joshua Kurlantzick 

Southeast Asian countries, already struggling to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, are bracing for a new surge of COVID-19 cases. Most countries in the region, with the exception of Singapore and Vietnam, had sluggish initial responses to the virus. Most also are poor or middle-income states, which lack public health systems that can effectively track and trace coronavirus patients. Malaysia now has more than 5,000 known COVID-19 cases, although the true number is probably much higher, while the Philippines and Indonesia also have more than 5,000 known cases. With minimal testing in Indonesia, the region’s most populous country, the real number of cases there remains unknown. Even the best performers in Southeast Asia—Singapore and Vietnam, both of which attacked the virus early—have seen a new spike in cases recently.

While preparing for a new wave of infections, these countries also face enormous damage to their economies, which are centered on tourism and export-oriented industries like manufacturing. They are also largely dependent on trade with China and other developed countries where demand has taken a hit from the pandemic. Whether Southeast Asia can reduce the virus’s economic damage while also protecting their populations’ health will offer lessons for other low- to middle-income countries battling this pandemic. ...

14 February 2020

Four Factors that Could Shape Southeast Asia in the Coming Decade

By Amitav Acharyais

Southeast Asia is witnessing major changes to its political, strategic and economic fabric. Some of these, such as the rise of China, have been anticipated for some time, while others, such as the US-China trade dispute, the growing prominence of the Indo-Pacific as a strategic concept, and the Trump administration’s retreat from liberal internationalism, have unfolded rapidly and disruptively during the past few years.

This brief analysis examines the four factors that will shape the security of Southeast Asia in the coming decade (1) great power geopolitics; (2) intra-regional relations and domestic politics; (3) non-traditional challenges including economic, environmental, demographic and technological issues; and (4) the role of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), including the future of ASEAN centrality.

In terms of great power geopolitics, China’s rise dominates the security landscape of Southeast Asia. However, concerns that Southeast Asian states will collectively bandwagon with China have proven to be unfounded. China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), has encountered resistance, with Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand maintaining cautious approaches towards it. Moreover, while China’s economic and military powers in the region grow, it suffers from a serious soft-power deficit.

25 November 2019

Biological Terrorism in Indonesia

By V. Arianti

Terrorists in West Java planned to use a biological toxic agent in a bomb attack. What does this signify for the bioterrorism threat in Indonesia?

In mid-October 2019, the Indonesian police discovered that a cell of Jamaah Ansharud Daulah (JAD) – the largest pro-Islamic State (IS) network in Indonesia – had plotted a suicide attack using a bomb that contained the abrin poison in Cirebon, West Java. The cell had targeted a local police station and a place of worship in Cirebon. Police seized 310 grams of rosary pea seeds, which is the main ingredient of abrin. The police’s forensic test revealed that around 0.7 micrograms of abrin could kill 100 people.

This was the first assembled bomb in Indonesia that used a biological substance as one of its ingredients. However, this was the second terror plot in eight years that used biological agents. The first plot was in 2011, when a militant group in Jakarta attempted to kill policemen by poisoning the latter’s food using ricin, another biological agent.

What does this latest plot imply regarding the current state of the threat of bioterrorism – “the intentional release of viruses, bacteria, or other germs that can sicken or kill people, livestock, or crops” – in Indonesia? The article will assess the threat from the perspectives of biological agents used in attack plots and methods of dissemination in past incidents as well as the intentions and capability of Indonesian terror groups in using biological agents as a mode of terror.

20 November 2019

The testing ground: China’s rising influence in Southeast Asia and regional responses

This paper examines China’s foreign policy toward Southeast Asia in the context of its neighborhood diplomacy more broadly. It describes how China is navigating between the competing imperatives of pulling the region closer to it economically via the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), while at the same time seeking to consolidate control over contested territorial claims in the South China Sea. The paper also discusses China’s relations with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and individual Southeast Asian countries, focusing on Indonesia and Vietnam. The discussion shows how Southeast Asia looms large both as a testing ground for China’s development as a great power and as a gateway for its global expansion in the future. Yet, it also shows that Southeast Asian countries aren’t just inanimate stones as China crosses the proverbial river; they are countries with agency of their own that can frustrate or take advantage of China’s moves. China could also face trip wires if it fails to better assess the social and ethnic dynamics in the region, and pushes ahead with old-style United Front activities with overseas Chinese communities at its own risk and folly.

3 September 2019

Middle Powers, Joining Together: The Case of Vietnam and Australia

By Le Dinh Tinh and Hoang Long

Middles powers need each other more, not less, as great power competition roils the Asia-Pacific.

On August 23, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison became the first Australian leader to pay an official visit to Vietnam in 25 years.

The visit comes at an important point in time. Global affairs have been gripped by escalating competition between the United States and China in various areas, from politics and trade to defense and technology. The seemingly endless trade war between the U.S. and China has arguably put more strain on already weak global growth and remnants of the volatile recovery from the 2008-2009 financial crisis. High public debt and anti-globalization sentiments are on the rise in different parts of the world. The Fourth Industrial Revolution, while hailed by many, risks widening the technological gaps between nations and sowing division within societies. Transnational challenges such as climate change, food security, protection of the environment and regional flashpoints such as the Korean Peninsula or the South China Sea (which Vietnam refers to as the East Sea) continues to demand for more political will and international cooperation. The global landscape usually comprises positive and negative forces but at its current state is bears more dark shades and unpredictability.

29 August 2019

Something Is Very Wrong on the Mekong River

By Tom Fawthrop

This year’s drought is just a preview of more dire problems to come if government don’t change course.

The Mekong is reeling from the combined onslaught of climate change, sand-mining, and incessant damming of the river, which combined to help cause the worst drought recorded in over 100 years in July.

“This is the worst ecological disaster in history of the of Mekong region,” declared Thai natural resources expert Chainarong Setthachua.

The water level in the Tonle Sap, Cambodia’s great inland lake, the “beating heart of the Mekong,” was reduced to unprecedented shallow areas with one floating village almost completely dried up. Almost unbelievable for Tonle Sap locals was that this happened in not in the dry season, but two months into the rainy season.

Youk Sengleng an NGO fisheries expert stationed by the Tonle Sap, shared his observations: “Many fish died because of the shallow water, hot temperature, and toxic water resulting from lack of oxygen. Around 2.5 million people who depend on the lake’s once abundant fisheries have been directly affected. “

Taking too much water out of a river essentially sucks the life out of it. Pollutants become more concentrated and water flows dwindle, resulting in the build-up of sediments that clog up the river bed.

10 August 2019

Managing the Rise of China's Security Partnerships in Southeast Asia

Over the past few years, while China has continued its criticism of the U.S. alliance system in the Asia-Pacific, Beijing has in fact been developing a network of new security partnerships of its own in the region. The emergence of these security partnerships is of potentially great significance, not just for Beijing’s own growing regional influence, but the alignments of other countries such as the United States and the broader regional security architecture. While there has been some attention to this broad trend, there has been comparatively less focus on the systematic development of these security partnerships and their specific components, particularly in Southeast Asia where they have thus far manifested most clearly.

This report attempts to fill this gap by examining China’s ongoing efforts to develop security partnerships in Southeast Asia and their strategic implications for the region. Drawing on written Chinese and Southeast Asian accounts as well as conversations with officials on both sides, it argues that the rise of Chinese security partnerships creates both opportunities and challenges that need to be properly understood and managed by Beijing, relevant Southeast Asian states, and external actors including the United States and like-minded allies and partners.

9 August 2019

ASEAN’s Indo-Pacific Dilemma: Where To From Here? – Analysis

By Dr. Frederick Kliem

ASEAN has now added to the ongoing Indo-Pacific debate. The question is, where to go from here? Is ASEAN’s Outlook an end in itself or a constructive roadmap for the future of regional cooperation?

At the just-concluded 34th ASEAN Summit in Bangkok, the regional bloc filled a void in the ongoing international Indo-Pacific debate. Various regional actors had previously released their own Indo-Pacific strategies and concepts, suggesting a redefinition of geo-strategic Asia.

2 August 2019

China’s Soft and Sharp Power Strategies in Southeast Asia Accelerating, But Are They Having an Impact?

by Joshua Kurlantzick

In a recent analysis for the Jamestown Foundation, Russell Hsiao of the Global Taiwan Institute presented a thorough and compelling case of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) influence operations in Singapore. Singapore is a critical state for China in Southeast Asia, given the outsized role Singapore plays in regional diplomacy, the fact that it is the only Southeast Asian state with a majority ethnic Chinese population, and the fact that its leaders have an increasingly wary approach to China’s regional assertiveness. Hsiao notes that Singapore long has been a target of Chinese influence activities, through the United Front, through business associations, through clan associations, through Chinese influence over some Chinese-language Singapore media properties, and through other tools.

His documentation is thorough, and it notes that, in recent years, China has utilized its influence at times of high Singapore-Beijing tensions, including, as he notes, one critical recent spat:

4 July 2019

Parag Khanna’s Latest Book: The Future is Asian

By William Thatcher Dowell

Mention Asia these days and thoughts generally turn to China. In the “Future is Asian”, writer Parag Khanna argues that Asia is a great deal bigger than the Middle Kingdom and in fact encompasses a wide swath of the planet ranging from the Middle East to the Philippines and the Indonesian archipelago.

Asia is not a continent, Parag Khanna observes; it is an extended region that includes some five billion people, whereas China’s population accounts for a mere 1.5 billion. As Khanna sees it, It is this immense assortment of humanity that will almost certainly define the future as the Asian Century.

Understanding the full extent of Asia requires a bit of mental gymnastics from Westerners who are accustomed thinking of Asia as a succession of disparate states, separate entities that seem to have little in common with each other. That perspective, Khanna observes, is a lingering after-effect of 19th and 20th century colonialism. As Khanna sees it, even the United States, which always thought of itself as anti-imperialist, has often been an indirect participant in colonial imperialism. The most glaring example may have been the Vietnam War in which Americans initially provided support to France’s postwar efforts to reclaim its lost colonies in Indochina.

3 July 2019

Conference on the risks to the Asian peace: Avoiding paths to great power war

Richard C. Bush

The following is the text of framing remarks delivered at a joint Brookings-National Chengchi University conference in Taipei on June 17, 2019. A Chinese translation of this speech, published by the Financial Times, is also available here.

Thank you all for coming today for our conference on “The Risks to the Asian Peace: Avoiding Paths to Great Power War.” The Brookings Institution is honored to sponsor this conference in partnership with the College of International Affairs (CIA) at National Chengchi University. Let me say at the outset that I personally plus all of my Brookings colleagues are deeply grateful to Professor Huang Kwei-Bo of CIA for his tireless efforts to make all the arrangements here in Taipei and ensure the success of our conference. Brookings put a big burden on his shoulders and he bore it well and with good humor.

Regarding the title of the conference, the first part of the title—“the risks to the Asian peace”—implies that there has been s a peace and that it is significant. My colleagues and I sometimes use the term “the long East Asian peace.” The purpose of my remarks is to provide you with a brief analysis of that long peace and why it is now at risk.

24 June 2019

Mongolia: Bridge or Buffer in Northeast Asia?

By Elizabeth Wishnick

What if you held a big party for 200 people and one of the guests you most wanted to see RSVPed but never showed up? This was the scenario with North Korea’s absence at the sixth Ulaanbaatar Dialogue (UBD) on Northeast Asian Security, a 1.5 level forum for officials and academics, which I attended from June 5-6 in the Mongolian capital. Nonetheless, Mongolia succeeded in making its case as a meaningful interlocutor on North Korean issues and a participant in Northeast Asian economic integration efforts, such as ongoing discussions about expanding the use of wind and solar power in a regional power grid.

Although Mongolia was considered as a venue for one of the summits between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, it was eventually not selected. Of course, it was not unexpected that North Korea would prefer an authoritarian host to a fledgling democracy that had made a transition from socialism. Nevertheless, Mongolia has played an important, if often overlooked, role over the years as a facilitator of Northeast Asian diplomacy with North Korean officials. As Foreign Minister Damdin Tsogtbaatarput it, Mongolia has the potential to be a “bridge for peace” in Northeast Asia, due to its own unique history as a socialist state and more recent development as a democracy.

23 June 2019

Great Expectations: ASEAN and the Indo-Pacific Concept

By Sophie Boisseau du Rocher

As ASEAN gets closer to finally releasing its vision for the Indo-Pacific, its role in the region hangs in the balance.

After France unveiled the latest version of its policy in the Indo-Pacific (“France and security in the Indo-Pacific”) in May 2019, and after the United States published its updated “Indo-Pacific Strategy Report” in June 2019, ASEAN is next in line in terms of new articulations of an ongoing concept that has been under development. At the 34th ASEAN summit to be held in Bangkok on June 23, member-states are expected to endorse an “ASEAN Indo-Pacific Outlook.”

It’s a long-awaited document as ASEAN is, among all stake-holders, the only one not to have yet to formally express its vision on this emerging – and still under discussion – concept. The single comment ASEAN has made until now is to insist that the coming scheme must respect ASEAN centrality.

21 June 2019

Great Expectations: ASEAN and the Indo-Pacific Concept

Sophie Boisseau du Rocher

After France unveiled the latest version of its policy in the Indo-Pacific (“France and security in the Indo-Pacific”) in May 2019, and after the United States published its updated “Indo-Pacific Strategy Report” in June 2019, ASEAN is next in line in terms of new articulations of an ongoing concept that has been under development. At the 34th ASEAN summit to be held in Bangkok on June 23, member-states are expected to endorse an “ASEAN Indo-Pacific Outlook.”

It’s a long-awaited document as ASEAN is, among all stake-holders, the only one not to have yet to formally express its vision on this emerging – and still under discussion – concept. The single comment ASEAN has made until now is to insist that the coming scheme must respect ASEAN centrality.

Because the concept is obviously a major concern for the future of ASEAN, located as it is at the very center of the Indo-Pacific, the Association has deliberately taken its time to elaborate an answer, to avoid being tied into any logic or undertakings it doesn’t approve. But that is not the only reason for the delay. The diverse perceptions among the member-states on the geographical scope and the goals and ambitions of the Indo-Pacific construct (for example, Singapore has yet to endorse the concept paper agreed to by senior officials in Chiang Rai last March) reflect simultaneously the limits of ASEAN’s influence, its complex positioning in the new power configuration, and the risks for serious misunderstanding with its traditional partners.

28 May 2019

The Rising Threat in Central Asia

By Ekaterina Zolotova

Something’s stirring in Central Asia. Nearly a year ago, we wrote an article about the threat of Islamist radicalism in the region. Central Asia has long been vulnerable to such destabilizing movements, in part because of events that have unfolded over several years. In Afghanistan, the U.S. has effectively given up on trying to rid the country of jihadists and is now looking for a way to leave without sacrificing any more blood or treasure. In Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, Islamic State fighters are returning home, experienced, motivated and facing uncertain futures. But a number of more recent developments have forced us to take a harder look at the region and examine whether it’s now reaching a turning point.

The most recent event that caught our eye was a riot on May 19 in a Tajik prison where Islamic State militants are being held. According to the Ministry of Justice, the rebellion, which killed three guards and 29 prisoners, started late Sunday in the city of Vahdat, located 10 kilometers from the capital. The ministry claims that the riot was organized by 35 Islamic State fighters, including Behruz Gulmurod, a former military leader for IS and the son of the former commander of the Tajik special forces.

17 April 2019

5 Reasons U.S. Maritime Supremacy In The Western Pacific May Be Doomed

Loren Thompson

East Asia has become the heartland of the global economy, the place where most of the high-tech products defining the current stage of human development are produced. If you doubt that assessment, take a stroll through Best Buy and see if you can find anything made in America or Europe.

The Asian manufacturing revolution began in Japan, but now is concentrated in China. Even companies that ostensibly are located in other countries, like Samsung and Sony, depend on Chinese inputs for their signature products. As a result, China has become the greatest manufacturing power in the world.

Over time, China’s leaders will try to translate that economic prowess into military power and political influence. The Trump Administration is the first U.S. administration to explicitly acknowledge that China is seeking to displace U.S. influence—not just in East Asia, but around the world. Thus, acting defense secretary Patrick Shanahan has described the focus of Pentagon plans for the future as “China, China, China.”

16 April 2019

Trump, Normally Cozy With Despots, Takes a Hard Line With Cambodia’s Hun Sen

Charles Dunst 

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia—In December, nearly 40 men stepped off a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement-chartered plane onto a humid tarmac on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, the capital of their unfamiliar homeland. It was the first time many of them, who were born in refugee camps in Thailand and the Philippines to parents fleeing the Khmer Rouge regime, and who grew up in the United States, had ever set foot in Cambodia. Others fled the country as children, with their only memories of Cambodia being the horrors of the Khmer Rouge. 

The overwhelming majority of these Cambodian deportees came to the U.S. legally as refugees and lived in the country as permanent residents, holding green cards. They became deportable after being convicted of an aggravated felony, including attempted murder and drug trafficking, or two misdemeanors, including marijuana possession and petty theft—convictions that invalidate one’s U.S. green card. These deportations have continued largely unabated since 2002, with more than 700 people sent back to Cambodia in that time. But the Trump administration has increased these removals at an unprecedented rate, deporting around 130 last year, a record number.

6 April 2019

Middle Eastern Protests Challenge Debilitating Gulf Counterrevolution – Analysis

By James M. Dorsey

Much of the Middle East’s recent turmoil stems from internecine Middle Eastern rivalries spilling onto third country battlefields and Saudi and United Arab Emirates-led efforts to roll back the achievements of the 2011 popular Arab revolts and pre-empt further uprisings.

So does the record of the past eight years. The counterrevolution’s one success, Egypt, has produced some of the harshest repression in the country’s history.

Saudi and UAE intervention in Yemen has sparked one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, tarnished the image of the two Gulf states, and provided opportunity to Iran to expand its network of regional proxies.

4 April 2019

Thailand’s Elections Foreshadow a New Divide, Without Healing Old Ones

Joshua Kurlantzick

In Thailand’s elections on March 24, the military’s proxy party, Palang Pracharath, performed better than pre-election surveys had indicated, finishing with 8.4 million votes, the most of any party. Combined with its seats in the unelected upper house, which is stacked with pro-military allies, Palang Pracharath should control enough seats to ensure that Prayuth Chan-ocha, who has led a military junta governing the country since 2014, will become prime minister again. 

Pheu Thai, the populist party aligned with exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, finished second with 7.9 million votes, but won the greatest number of the 350 constituency-based seats in the lower house, with 137 to Palang Pracharath’s 97. Another strongly anti-junta party, Future Forward, also performed well in the constituency-based seats. The remaining 150 of the 500 lower house seats will be allocated later based on a complicated party list process, with the official results scheduled to be finalized May 9.