Politics

A UH-1J helicopter flies during a live fire exercise at Japan's Ground Self-Defense Forces (JGSDF) training grounds in the East Fuji Manuever Area in Gotemba on 22 May 2021. (Akio Kon/AFP)

Japan’s weapons transfers to Southeast Asia: Opportunities and challenges

Research fellow Victor Teo says that Japan’s re-emergence as a weapon exporter is fuelled by desires to increase Japanese capabilities, counteract China’s rise, hedge against possible future strategic abandonment by the US, fund next-generation weapon research, and foster Japan’s global leadership and influence in Southeast Asia. Using its overseas development assistance to the region, it is promoting the transfer of weapon systems, naval vessels and surveillance planes, particularly to Southeast Asian claimant states in the South China Sea. What are the implications of these actions?
Japan's Ground Self-Defense Forces (JGSDF) soldiers wearing protective face masks arrive for a live fire exercise at JGSDF's training grounds in the East Fuji Maneuver Area in Gotemba, Japan, on 22 May 2021. A key part of US President Joe Bidens foreign policy has been turning to allies for support in addressing the security risks posed by the likes of China and North Korea, placing a greater emphasis on the Indo-Pacific region. (Akio Kon/Bloomberg)

What removing the defence budget cap means for Japan’s role in the Indo-Pacific

​Since 1976, Japan’s defence budget has traditionally been capped at 1% of its GDP. However, in a recent interview, Japanese Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi said that this self-imposed limit would effectively be removed.
People attend a vigil commemorating the 32nd anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen square pro-democracy protests and crackdown outside of the Chinese consulate in Los Angeles, California on 4 June 2021. (Patrick T. Fallon/AFP)

A question of human rights: Is China an aggressor and oppressor?

Chinese academic Li Yuehua takes a look at reports on China’s human rights record, and analyses whether it really deserves its negative reputation. Hasn’t China tried to improve the lives of its people, and isn’t the right to survival and development a major part of human rights? He believes that painting China as an aggressor and oppressor only fulfils the interests of a few politicians to the detriment of people-to-people relations between China and the West.
This handout photo from the Royal Malaysian Air Force taken on 31 May 2021 and released on 1 June shows a Chinese People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) Xian Y-20 aircraft that Malaysian authorities said was in the airspace over Malaysia's maritime zone near the coast of Sarawak state on Borneo island. (Handout/Royal Malaysian Air Force/AFP)

Can Malaysia handle intrusions by the Chinese air force?

The 31 May incident, in which 16 Chinese military planes entered the airspace above Malaysia’s exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea, raises questions about Malaysia's ability to handle such occurrences in the future, says RSIS researcher Wu Shang-Su. He takes a hard look at Malaysia’s airpower capabilities.
This picture taken during a government organised media tour shows a seller holding a portrait of the Chinese President Xi Jinping next to pictures of the former Chinese leader Mao Zedong at Dongfanghong Theatre in Yan'an, the headquarters of the Chinese Communist Party from 1936 to 1947, in Shaanxi province on 10 May 2021. (Hector Retamal/AFP)

From ‘wolf warrior diplomacy’ to ‘lovable China’

At a study session on international communications for the Chinese Communist Party, Chinese President Xi Jinping called on China to build an image of a “credible, lovable and respectable China”. Putting aside the euphemism, says Zaobao associate editor Han Yong Hong, what is most important is how the goal can possibly be achieved in China’s current diplomatic context.
Boxes of Sinovac's Covid-19 coronavirus CoronaVac vaccine are pictured during a vaccination drive at Bang Sue Central Station in Bangkok on 24 May 2021. (Lillian Suwanrumpha/AFP)

Sinovac or not: Thai vaccine politics

The country’s political polarisation is hindering the government’s Covid-19 vaccination programme. While China has been a keen provider of the Sinovac vaccine, currently the most widely deployed in Thailand, distrust of the Prayut government and party politics have fuelled vaccine hesitancy and the fear that this is yet another way for China to assert its influence on the country.
This photo taken on 23 May 2021 shows a sanitation worker receiving the China National Biotec Group (CNBG) Covid-19 vaccine in Shenyang, Liaoning province, China. (STR/AFP)

How Chinese vaccines are paving the way for China’s Health Silk Road

With the aggressive vaccine diplomacy that China has embarked on involving countries such as Brazil, Indonesia, Turkey, Chile and Pakistan, the “Health Silk Road” that China has long envisioned seems to be falling into place. While vaccine aid should not be political, says Yu Hong, China’s efforts will benefit developing countries. But can China continue to be a global provider while balancing its domestic needs?
A pit stop on a government organised media tour — a monument of the hammer and sickle in Nanniwan, some 60 km from Yan'an, the headquarters of the Chinese Communist Party from 1936 to 1947, in Shaanxi province, China on 11 May 2021. (Hector Retamal/AFP) (Hector Retamal/AFP)

When will the CCP stop being an ‘underground party’ in Hong Kong?

For decades, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in Hong Kong has been seen as somewhat of an underground organisation which operates in the shadows. This could soon be changing. Since the anti-extradition law protests in 2019, Beijing has emphasised that Hong Kong has to be run by “patriots”, and there are growing voices in support of the CCP coming out or operating in the open. How will this change the political ecosystem in Hong Kong?
A man crossing the road at Ximending shopping area in Taipei's Wanhua district, Taiwan on 28 May 2021. (Ben Blanchard/Reuters)

Hong Kong-Taiwan relations take a nosedive as cross-strait relations worsen

Hong Kong-Taiwan relations have waxed and waned with the state of cross-strait relations. Following increased tensions after the DPP government came to power and the perceived convergence of “Hong Kong independence” and “Taiwan independence” forces, calling a temporary halt to organisations like the Hong Kong Economic, Trade and Cultural Office (HKETCO) in Taiwan could be the writing on the wall of cross-strait and Hong Kong-Taiwan relations.