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

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. 

16 March 2019

Indonesians Get Ready to Pass Judgement on 'Jokowi'

In campaigning ahead of April nationwide elections, Indonesia's opposition has criticized President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo for failing to deliver promised economic growth and for rising inequality and mounting debt, but the incumbent is still well-placed to win. With the opposition especially focused on infrastructure borrowing from Beijing and on Indonesia's trade deficit with the country, it will seek to find a better deal if it wins. But even if does capture next month's election, the opposition will not manage to diversify away from China in any substantial fashion. 

Editor's Note: This assessment is part of a series of analyses supporting Stratfor's upcoming 2019 Second-Quarter Forecast. These assessments are designed to provide more context and in-depth analysis on key developments over the next quarter.

12 February 2019

How China and the U.S. Are Competing for Young Minds in Southeast Asia

Kristine Lee

Business leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos last month warned that China has overtaken the United States in the development of artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies, such as fifth-generation wireless or 5G. “There’s almost an endless stream of people who are showing up and developing new companies,” Blackstone’s CEO Stephen Schwarzman told one panel of his frequent trips to China. “The venture business there in AI-oriented companies is really exploding with growth.” 

The attention on China’s rapidly evolving tech sector has overshadowed another area of competition between Beijing and Washington, which may be moving more slowly but is just as consequential: the battle for young minds. Nowhere is this competition to educate and attract younger generations more pronounced than in Southeast Asia, with its youthful demographics, fast-growing economies and array of geopolitical flashpoints.

7 February 2019

The Huawei Dilemma: Insecurity and Mistrust

By Roncevert Ganan Almond

On a fall day in 2012, Charles Ding, Huawei’s chief representative in the United States, made his way to Capitol Hill. While most of Washington was consumed with the recent attacks in Benghazi, Libya, and the death of U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, within the Capitol complex, Congressional investigators were zeroing in on another issue. Ding stepped into the wood-paneled hearing room, HVC-210, before the U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, which was seeking to complete its report following a nearly yearlong national security investigation into Huawei and its compatriot company, ZTE.

He met a hostile audience. Congressman C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD), as ranking member, immediately raised suspicions about Huawei’s country of origin, China, “a country known to aggressively conducts [sic] cyber espionage. And add to that…the fear that China, a communist country, could compel these companies to provide it information or worse yet spy on Americans using this equipment.” After experiencing a series of evasive responses, Chairman Mike Rogers (R-MI) expressed frustration: “We hope that this hearing finally gives us the opportunity to get fulsome answers and resolve these doubts about your companies.”

2 February 2019

Are Indonesia and Malaysia Ready to Stand up for China’s Muslims?

By Nithin Coca

By now, the scale of the crisis is clear. There are up to 3 million Turkic Muslims – primarily Uyghurs but also ethnic Kazakhs and Kyrgyz – in a vast network of concentration camps in China’s far western region of Xinjiang. The result is the 21st century’s greatest human rights crisis: Empty Uyghur neighborhoods. Students, musicians, athletes, and peaceful academicsjailed. “Graduates” of these camps are being put into forced labor factories, churning out goods that are even reaching the United States.

It’s clear that what began as a movement to clamp down on terrorism has become an attempt to eradicate an entire ethnic group and their religion – Islam, which is being seen as a mental illness and incompatible with Chinese-style socialism. Yet, so far, the world’s reaction has been muted – including in the Islamic world, in the same countries where, in the past years, there have been widespread protests and public statements in support of the human rights of Palestinian and Rohingya Muslims.

1 February 2019



Heightened global trade tensions and the US desire to ‘decouple’ from the Chinese economy for national security reasons pose significant risks to East Asia’s export-driven growth model.

However, the latest data suggests East Asia is no longer so dependent on exporting to the West, with China in particular eclipsing the United States as the leading source of ‘final demand’ for the rest of the region’s exports.

This gives East Asia much greater room to manoeuvre, as regional integration is now a more viable platform for growth while US decoupling efforts will likely struggle to find traction in the region.


A decade ago, East Asia’s economies were largely geared towards serving Western export markets. Trade within the region was dominated by parts and components that went into products still primarily destined for the United States and Europe. But, as this working paper shows, recently updated data from the OECD suggests that is no longer the case. East Asia is now driving its own demand. Behind this development has been the huge expansion in Chinese demand, which has now eclipsed the United States as the leading source of ‘final demand’ for the rest of the region. As a result, East Asia is somewhat less vulnerable to rising US–China trade tensions than commonly thought. More importantly, regional integration efforts, including the Belt and Road Initiative, are now more viable platforms for securing future economic growth, even if the rest of the world turns inwards. The key question is whether these opportunities can be capitalised on by deepening economic integration. Finally, with China cementing itself at the core of East Asia’s heavily integrated economy, any US decoupling effort aimed at pushing other East Asian economies to forgo closer economic relations with China will inevitably struggle.

30 January 2019

Why the Quad Won’t Ever Be an Asian NATO

By Andrew O'Neil & Lucy West

The most recent meeting of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit in Singapore last November suggests that the U.S., India, Japan and Australia regard the initiative as a geostrategic multiplier in the Indo-Pacific. Despite the evident convergence, there have been few signs of a genuine renewal of the Quad’s purpose since it was resuscitated in 2017 after a decade-long hiatus.

This is underscored by the absence of a unified declaration following the Quad’s meetings in 2017 and 2018. Although individual statements released by the four members after the meetings agreed on the importance of a free and open Indo-Pacific, they overlapped on few points of detail. And although Quad boosters assert that its foundations are stronger today than they were a decade ago, the absence of a single joint statement betrays the inherent limits of the initiative.

26 January 2019

Indonesia Takes a Page Out of China’s Playbook to Cement Control Over West Papua

Nithin Coca 

Earlier this month, the Indonesian military raided and destroyed the offices of the West Papuan National Committee, a separatist group in the country’s easternmost region, which has long agitated for independence. The raid came amid allegations that the military had used chemical weapons in airstrikes on separatists in West Papua in late December. The Indonesian government has responded harshly after at least 17 construction workers were killed by West Papuan militants in early December, the deadliest such attack in West Papua in years.

This surge in unrest in the region is the outcome of a harder line that the Indonesian government has taken on West Papua in recent years. During the United Nations General Assembly last September, the prime minister of the tiny Pacific island nation of Vanuatu, Charlot Salwai, criticized that approach. Referring directly to West Papua, he said the Indonesian government needed to “put an end to all forms of violence and find common ground with the populations to establish a process that will allow them to freely express their choice.”