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

18 January 2019

Southeast Asia in 2019: Four Issues to Watch

This year promises to be another dynamic one for Southeast Asia—and hopefully for high-level U.S. engagement with the region. With elections and governance challenges in many countries, the Chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) returning to Thailand while it organizes an election and plans a coronation, the region’s trade architecture in flux, and the backdrop of growing U.S.-China strategic rivalry and trade friction, these are the key issues to watch in 2019.

Elections and Governance

Indonesia and Thailand, Southeast Asia’s two largest economies and traditional leaders within ASEAN, are both set to hold elections in early 2019. In Thailand, the upcoming election will nominally return the country to civilian rule nearly five years after a coup d’état overthrew the previously-elected government. However, the timing of the much-delayed election is again uncertain, as the government just announced that the previously set date of February 24 will no longer work due to activities surrounding the coronation of King Maha Vajiralongkorn on May 4. Thai military leaders have sought to reassure the public that the election will be held no later than March and has floated March 10 and March 24 as possible dates. Regardless of the timing, the outcome of the first vote under a newly rewritten constitution does not presage a full return to democracy and civilian rule, as the military retains sweeping powers and an outsized role in shaping the next government. Indeed, a likely post-election scenario is that the elected lower house is controlled by an anti-junta coalition, while the upper house and prime minister remain in the hands of pro-junta parties. This scenario would likely lead to political gridlock and potentially spark social unrest and would diminish the ability of Thailand to return to stronger economic growth and regional leadership.

21 December 2018

ASEAN Must Choose: America or China?

by John Lee

THE 2017 National Security Strategy (NSS) describes China as a revisionist power seeking to displace the United States in the Indo-Pacific region. It is an accurate characterization which was resisted by previous American administrations despite there being little evidence that China is content to be a “responsible stakeholder” under a U.S.-led order.

The Chinese desire to gradually exclude the United States and reduce the latter’s role in strategic affairs in the region preceded the current regime of Xi Jinping. However, Xi has intensified China’s use of all the instruments of national power to further its goal of regaining the preponderant position in East Asia. Given explicit U.S. security guarantees offered to Japan, South Korea and Taiwan—themselves formidable military powers—Beijing has identified Southeast Asia as a region of immense strategic importance and opportunity. It is in this sub-region consisting of eleven countries and home to over six hundred million people that China has been the most proactive and assertive.

21 October 2018

Sustainable Development: Can ASEAN Lead The Process? – Analysis

ByKaewkamol Pitakdumrongkit*

ASEAN is planning to establish its Centre for Sustainable Development Studies and Dialogue (ACSDSD). Whether the Centre will provide ASEAN leadership in SD cooperation depends on the entity’s design. Southeast Asian policymakers should apply the lessons learned from ASEAN’s past experiences and practices to craft the Centre’s mandates and legal frameworks. Last week, the world’s financial leaders convened the annual IMF-World Bank meeting in Bali, Indonesia on 12-14 October 2018. On the sidelines, Southeast Asian leaders held an informal gathering among themselves a day earlier, on 11 October. While these meetings involved different players, one thing in common was discussions on sustainable development (SD).

14 October 2018

Defusing the South China Sea Disputes

The CSIS Expert Working Group on the South China Sea brings together prominent experts on maritime law, international relations, and the marine environment from China, Southeast Asia, and beyond. The members seek consensus on realistic, actionable steps that claimants and interested parties could take to boost cooperation and manage tensions at sea. The group meets regularly to discuss issues that it considers necessary for the successful management of the South China Sea disputes and produces blueprints for a path forward on each.

21 September 2018


by Benedict Rogers 

Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim nation, has long stood as a role model for religious pluralism. That’s changing. Political Islam and violent extremism have been taking root in society and may soon do so in the government. President Joko Widodo’s choice of Ma’ruf Amin, a 75-year-old cleric, as his running mate in next year’s election marks an ugly turn for Indonesian politics. Religious minorities had regarded Mr. Widodo as their defender. His rival, retired general Prabowo Subianto, was expected to play the religion card, questioning the incumbent’s Islamic credentials and building a coalition supported by radical Islamists. By choosing Mr. Amin, the president’s defenders argue, he not only has neutralized the religion factor, but might have prevented it from spilling over into violence against minorities. In office, they believe, Mr. Amin will be contained.

Yet Mr. Subianto is unlikely to be deterred from playing identity politics, and rumors that Mr. Amin is reaching out to radical Islamists for support are troubling. Mr. Amin has a history of intolerance. He signed afatwa that put a Widodo ally, Jakarta’s former Gov. Basuki Tjahaja “Ahok” Purnama, in jail on blasphemy charges. Ahok, who is Christian and ethnically Chinese, was a symbol of Indonesia’s diversity, and as a popular governor was expected to be re-elected. Instead he lost after rivals told Muslims not to vote for a non-Muslim…Read on.

1 September 2018


By Shang-su Wu

Due to their central location between the Indian and Pacific Oceans, maritime Southeast Asian countries have increasingly important roles in the Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) Initiative. Despite some constraints, such as the inability of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to coordinate its membership’s defenses, these regional states and their relatively weak but growing navies, with a home field advantage, matter in terms of the balance of power in the Indo-Pacific region. Based on their non-alliance tradition and economic interests with China, Southeast Asian countries would not join FOIP, but engagement between them would be crucial for the strategy connecting the two oceans.

31 August 2018

The Economic Showdown in the South China Sea

by Richard Javad Heydarian

The Trump administration wants to mobilize private American capital for high-quality investments in the Asia-Pacific region. As China inches closer to imposing a de facto exclusion zone across the South China Sea, it has sought to box the United States out of Southeast Asia. Having deployed state-of-the-art weapons systems to artificially created islands in the area, a Chinese Air Defense Identification Zone is more a matter of “when” than “if.” The Asian powerhouse has forged ahead with negotiating a Code of Conduct (COC) in the contested areas that could, first, consolidate its gains on the ground and, more importantly, drive a wedge between Southeast Asian countries and Washington.

30 August 2018

Back in Power, Malaysia's Prime Minister Moves Away From China

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad will work to end his country's economic overreliance on China without leaning on the West as part of his Malay nationalist agenda. The government in Kuala Lumpur will look for alternative foreign partners to insulate itself from the intensifying competition between China and the United States. Japan will probably take on a more prominent role in Malaysia's economy and security as a result. Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's first state visit to China since returning to office in May went a lot like the seven state visits he made there during his first stint in power. On the trip, which ended Aug. 21, Mahathir reaffirmed his policy toward China and agreed with Beijing on several important issues, such as accelerating regional free trade and advancing multilateral negotiations over the South China Sea. He also toured the eastern city of Hangzhou and clinched a deal with Chinese automaker Geely to allow Malaysia's national car brand, Proton, a legacy of his time as prime minister in the 1980s, to assemble and market its cars in China.

29 August 2018

ASEAN Security ‘Centrality’ And The South China Sea

By Mark J. Valencia

Leaders of ASEAN member countries have consistently proclaimed and promoted the bloc’s “centrality” in the guidance, mitigation, and mediation of regional security issues. Since its founding in August 1967, ASEAN has had some successes — like playing a role in averting war or major crises between its members, including over territorial and jurisdictional disputes in the South China Sea. ASEAN also hosts the most meaningful official multilateral security forums in the region. But the grouping has become ever more divided in regards to the South China Sea disputes. Indeed, for ASEAN, resolving or even mitigating the South China Sea issues between China and the United States may be a bridge too far. The contest between China and the U.S. for dominance there and in the region has exposed the reality that ASEAN is not sufficiently politically and militarily unified to be “central” to the region’s security when it is threatened by a clash between major powers.

Philippine president says buying US F-16 jets ‘utterly useless’

By: Jim Gomez

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine president is opposing an offer by the U.S. defense chief and other top American officials to buy F-16 fighter jets, saying such an acquisition would be “utterly useless” because his country needs lighter combat aircraft to fight insurgents.

President Rodrigo Duterte scoffed Thursday night at the offer he said was made in a letter by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, which came after the president was slammed by the U.S. for his deadly crackdown on illegal drugs.

After he took office in mid-2016, Duterte immediately took steps to revive once-frosty relations with China while often taking an antagonistic stance toward U.S. security policies. He had lashed out at former President Barack Obama, who raised concerns over human rights under Duterte. The Philippine leader, however, has cozied up to President Donald Trump.

26 August 2018

Divided Asean spins its wheels as great powers become back-seat drivers

Despite its lack of cohesiveness and geopolitical heft, the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations likes to be in the driver’s seat even on initiatives that extend beyond its region. But having placed itself at the wheel, Asean usually needs instructions from back-seat drivers on how to proceed and where to go. One such example is the Asean Regional Forum, which provides a setting for annual ministerial discussions on peace and security issues across the Asia-Pacific. Established in 1994, it draws together 27 member-states, including key players such as the United States, China, India, Japan, Russia, Australia and the two Koreas.

15 August 2018

France's Navy: Political Messengers in the South China Sea

Mathieu Duchatel

The deployment is part of Pitch Black, an annual multilateral joint exercise described by the Australian host as “pivotal to ensuring [the] air force remains ready to respond whenever the Australian government requires”. It will be followed by Mission Pegase in August, when a French Air Force contingent is to visit Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and India. The French Ministry of Armed Forces describes that mission as helping to “deepen our relations with our main partner countries”, “maintain operational condition so that the air force can be deployed anywhere in the world and showcase France’s power projection capacities and defence aeronautics industry”.

7 August 2018

A Closer Look at the ASEAN-China Single Draft South China Sea Code of Conduct

By Carl Thayer

On August 3, the foreign ministers of the 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and their Chinese counterpart announced agreement on a Single Draft South China Sea Code of Conduct Negotiating Text (SDNT) that will serve as the basis for the adoption of a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea. The SDNT is 19 A4-sized pages long. It is structured according to the previously adopted Framework Agreement on the Code of Conduct into three main sections – preambular provisions, general provisions, and final clauses. The SDNT is color-coded black for text taken from the COC Framework, blue for the consolidated text, and green to identify the input by the 11 parties.

6 August 2018

Southeast Asia: The Sum of Its Parts

Deep Dive

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations turns 50 this year, and at no point in its history has the region it represents been more attractive to outside powers or more indispensable to the global system than it is today. The 10-member bloc’s combined gross domestic product is on pace to reach nearly $3 trillion. It receives more investment than China, the country in whose shadow Southeast Asia has historically lived, and boasts a humming manufacturing sector manned by low-cost workers. Its position gives it stewardship over some of the world’s most prolific trade routes and makes it strategically valuable to navies vying for control of the increasingly crowded waters of the Western Pacific. It has become the front line in the competition between the United States and China. It is globally relevant in the fight against terrorism. 

3 August 2018

U.S.-Led Infrastructure Aid to Counter China in Indo-Pacific

By Jason Scott

The U.S., Japan and Australia agreed to invest in infrastructure projects in the Indo-Pacific in a move that will be seen as a counter to China’s rising influence in a region that stretches from the east coast of Africa, through Australia to Hawaii in the Pacific Ocean. “This trilateral partnership is in recognition that more support is needed to enhance peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region,” Australia Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Tuesday in an emailed statement. The pact will mobilize investment in energy, transportation, tourism and technology infrastructure, according to the statement, which didn’t give any funding details.

27 July 2018

Duterte’s Efforts to Align the Philippines With China Face a Backlash

Richard Javad Heydarian

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s time in office has shown how a charismatic, populist leader can recalibrate a country’s foreign policy almost single-handedly. Under his watch, the Philippines has pursued an “independent” foreign policy, one that is less hostile to China and less dependent on the United States, the Philippines’ sole treaty ally and former colonizer. As a result, the Philippines’ relations with China have entered a new “golden age,” in Duterte’s words.

At the same time, his popularity does not give him unilateral power over the Philippines’ foreign and defense policy—at least not yet. His aggressive push to reorient Philippine foreign policy has been met with stiff resistance at home, especially from the defense establishment and pundit class, which remain wary of China. Indeed, the policymaking landscape remains highly contested, with the president constantly having to incorporate the views of other veto-wielders within the Philippine elite.

16 July 2018

Bangladesh: Demand for Elections under Caretaker Government

Dr Sreeradha Datta
Source Link

Election times are quintessentially interesting, more so when some of the South Asian countries are involved. The element of unpredictability and host of other varied considerations surrounding any election in the region, makes these events an analysts delight to piece together the various issues and possibilitiesand come up with plausible answers. In the context of elections in Bangladesh, added confusion arises out of the long list of unresolvable issues including demand for holding elections under caretaker governments.

25 June 2018

Who Lost the South China Sea?


The South China Sea is central to the contest for strategic influence in the larger Indo-Pacific region. Unless the US adopts a stronger policy to contain Chinese expansionism there, the widely shared vision of a free, open, and democratic-led Indo-Pacific will give way to an illiberal, repressive regional order. US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has spoken out against China’s strategy of “intimidation and coercion” in the South China Sea, including the deployment of anti-ship missiles, surface-to-air missiles, and electronic jammers, and, more recently, the landing of nuclear-capable bomber aircraft at Woody Island. There are, Mattis warned, “consequences to China ignoring the international community.”

14 June 2018

A West in Crisis, an East Rising? Comparing the G7 and the SCO Image Credit: White House A West in Crisis, an East Rising? Comparing the G7 and the SCO

By Catherine Putz

While much of the world watched the tense G7 meeting in Charlevoix, Canada from June 8 to 9 and chattered about the rapidly approaching June 12 Singapore summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, in Qingdao, China on June 9-10 the leaders of eight other nations also gathered in concert. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) annual summit returned to China at the opening of a new chapter. Not only has the organization expanded — this summit was India and Pakistan’s first as full-fledged members — but the global order itself appears to be sliding from West to East. The slide may not be new, but the two summits side-by-side display the dissonance: a West breaking apart and an East consolidating.

7 June 2018

The “Indo-Pacific” Region Takes Center Stage at Shangri La

The Shangri La Dialogue, the premier regional defense forum held in Singapore, did not disappoint this year. A record number of defense ministers and other top-ranking officials from 40 countries participated in the 17th annual dialogue, which convened June 1–3. Alongside the rhetorical fireworks between the United States and China that we have come to expect at this forum, the geostrategic concept of the “Indo-Pacific” region quickly emerged as the dominant theme of the conference.