This file photo taken on 29 March 2014 shows a Philippine Navy vessel that has been grounded since 1999 to assert the nation's sovereignty over the Second Thomas Shoal, a remote South China Sea reef also claimed by China. (Jay Directo/AFP)

Second Thomas ShoaI: Is China bullying its smaller neighbours in the South China Sea?

ISEAS academic Ian Storey thinks that despite what China has said about wanting to uphold peace and stability in the South China Sea, in mid November, China Coast Guard vessels prevented two Philippine Navy ships from delivering supplies to a group of Marines on Second Thomas Shoal. This can be seen as another of China's attempts to assert its claims in the South China Sea, which an arbitral tribunal ruled in 2016 were incompatible with UNCLOS for which China is a signatory. Is China not abiding by its promise?
Indonesia's new military chief General Andika Perkasa speaks to journalists during a press conference with retired Indonesia's military chief Air Chief Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto, after a handover ceremony at the Indonesian Military Headquarters in Jakarta, Indonesia, 18 November 2021. (Willy Kurniawan/Reuters)

Indonesia’s maritime challenges are increasing. Can its new army chief rise to the occasion?

The newly-appointed commander of the Indonesian military, General Andika Perkasa, has an army background. However, his appointment comes at a time when Indonesia’s defence challenges fall largely in the maritime domain, including the presence of vessels from various countries in the waters around Indonesia, necessitating maritime enforcement. Indonesian academic Aristyo Rizka Darmawan notes that if the Indonesian military can shift focus towards the sea, it may be able to play a key role in Asia's maritime landscape.
University students form an image to mark the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China during an opening ceremony of the new semester in Wuhan in China's central Hubei province on 10 September 2021. (STR/AFP)

Chinese ambassador Hong Xiaoyong on China’s future: Forging ahead on a century of achievements

Chinese ambassador to Singapore Hong Xiaoyong says with the latest resolution on historical issues passed by the Communist Party of China (CPC), the party is consolidating its historical experience so as to advance under the guidance of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era as it leads the people towards a great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. As China builds a modern socialist country, it is open to exchanges with different civilisations on issues such as democracy. Its own experience is that of “whole-process people’s democracy”, a way of consultative policymaking that it will consolidate in the next phase of its journey.
Western media has reported that China has sent hypersonic weapons into orbit. (Internet/CNS/SPH)

What’s real (and not) about China’s hypersonic weapons tests

China’s recent tests of hypersonic weapons has attracted the attention of the West, which is wary about what this rapid progress might mean. On its part, China is downplaying these tests as “routine”, and emphasising that they are helpful to eventually reduce the costs of space technology. Is the US overreacting and playing the “victim”, while having its own agenda?
A man holds a mobile phone in front of an image of Chinese President Xi Jinping displayed at the Museum of the Communist Party of China in Beijing, China, 11 November 2021. (Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters)

China turning inward? China has always been a civilisation unto its own

The pandemic and China's zero-Covid policy have led some in the West to caution against the danger of China turning inward, closing its border to the world, building a man-made bubble, and adopting a closed nationalist discourse. But academic Lance Gore says China has always been a civilisation unto its own, and it now has both the means and reasons to decouple from the Western-led capitalist system to some extent, so as to pursue its own path of building socialism with Chinese characteristics. This might bring some benefits to China but could also lead to their misreading of the world in the long run, and cause it greater pain when its efforts to lead and galvanise are not reciprocated.
A man holds a US flag as he looks at the West Lawn of the US Capitol building in Washington, DC on 19 November 2021. (Roberto Schmidt/AFP)

Will the Summit for Democracy unite or divide the world?

Zaobao associate editor Han Yong Hong notes that while its objectives remain vague, the upcoming US-led Summit for Democracy is likely to reinforce “us versus them” divisions along “democracy versus autocracy” lines. Is this helpful? One thing for certain is that it has got countries, not least China, bolstering their narratives on democracy. How will the summit pan out?
Taiwan Air Force staffers walk past an upgraded US-made F-16 V fighter during a ceremony at the Chiayi Air Force Base in Taiwan on 18 November 2021. (Sam Yeh/AFP)

US democracy summit: Taipei is invited, Beijing is not included

The upcoming Summit for Democracy led by the US may be yet another test of US-China relations, with the invite list including “Taiwan”, but leaving out mainland China and Russia. Setting up a democracy versus autocracy narrative is part of geopolitical tussling and the US will likely hold on to its Taiwan card. But will this prompt Beijing to dig in its heels on countermeasures against Taiwan?
A television screen shows a news programme about a virtual meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Joe Biden at a restaurant in Beijing on 16 November 2021. (Jade GaoAFP)

US-China relations: Taiwan could be the most dangerous trigger point

ISEAS academic William Choong notes that amid intense China-US competition in domains such as trade, technology, security and values, there is much virtue for smaller states, particularly those in Southeast Asia, in upholding high principles and expressing a desire for a rules-based regional order. These elements, however, are premised on continued stability in Sino-US relations, which is not guaranteed, particularly given the increasingly entrenched positions of China and the US on the Taiwan issue.
Soldiers march to position during an anti-invasion drill on the beach during the annual Han Kuang military drill in Tainan, Taiwan, 14 September 2021. (Ann Wang/Reuters)

Taiwanese generally think there will not be war, and they are unprepared for it

Surveys show that the Taiwanese think war is unlikely, and they are aware that they are generally not well prepared for it, believing that the US and Japan will come to Taiwan’s assistance if mainland China launches an offensive. But recent comments by the US and Japan seem to suggest that strategic ambiguity is very much in play.