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

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.” 

23 January 2019

Once Facing a Growing Opposition, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen Cracked Down To Ensure His Grip on Power

President Trump unveiled a sweeping plan Thursday to defend the U.S. and its allies from missile attack.

The plan is the first update to the nation's missile defense strategy in nearly a decade, but in many ways it is reminiscent of President Ronald Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative, a pie-in-the-sky program that was later dubbed "Star Wars."

The report outlines a battery of new technologies — including lasers and space-based systems — that the Pentagon wants to combat what it deems to be a growing missile threat. It also calls for adding 20 interceptor missiles to an existing system of 44 interceptors based in Fort Greely, Alaska.

"Our goal is simple," Trump said at a Pentagon briefing on Thursday. "To ensure that we can detect and destroy any missile launched against the United States anywhere, anytime, anyplace."

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.