This handout photo from the Armed Forces of the Philippines taken on 4 January 2024 shows a pilot executing a final check in a Philippine Navy AW109 helicopter on the deck of the USS Carl Vinson during the second iteration of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the US Indo-Pacific Command Military Cooperative Activity in the South China Sea. (Handout/Armed Forces of the Philippines/AFP)

China’s naval defence gains priority amid US’s aggressive Indo-Pacific strategy

Academic Chen Gang notes that China’s appointment of its first defence minister with a naval background highlights the priority it has set for its military development. Given the US’s aggressive Indo-Pacific maritime strategy, China is responding in kind, leading to "grey rhino" that could spark a war.
People ride past a campaign ad for William Lai Ching-te, Taiwan's vice-president and the ruling Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) presidential candidate and Justin Wu, local parliament member candidate for the ruling DPP ahead of the election in Taipei, Taiwan, on 12 January 2024. (Ann Wang/Reuters)

Taiwan presidential election: A dull but important affair

With the Taiwan presidential election nearing its climactic end, Lianhe Zaobao associate editor Han Yong Hong notes there has been nothing fresh with election rhetoric, leading to a dull affair. Nonetheless, the election carries a lot of weight given its potential impact on cross-strait and China-US relations.
People listen to Ko Wen-je, Taiwan presidential candidate from the opposition Taiwan People's Party (TPP), in front of Ko and his running mate Cynthia Wu’s advertisement at the Jhong Yi Taoist temple in New Taipei City on 10 January 2024. (Sam Yeh/AFP)

Taiwan's elections heading towards new era of intergenerational rivalry

As Taiwan’s presidential election nears, young people's concerns about domestic social issues is becoming a significant voting factor. NUS academic Lu Xi notes that Ko Wen-Je’s popularity among youths and the change in political discourse since Tsai Ing-wen’s “four commitments” has shown that the dilemma over reunification and independence has taken a backseat and could thus pose a challenge to mainland China’s reunification strategy.
Supporters of Islami Andolan Bangladesh party attend a protest rally demanding to abolish what they call a "dummy election" and to reorganise a free and fair election under the caretaker government, in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on 9 January 2024. (Mohammad Ponir Hossain/Reuters)

China and India unfazed by Bangladesh's one-sided elections

Bangladesh’s ruling government led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was easily returned to power on 7 January. While the US has often criticised Bangladesh's elections as not being free and fair, its close neighbours China and India seem prepared to focus on Bangladesh’s strategic value in increasing their regional influence.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un looks on as a rocket carrying a spy satellite Malligyong-1 is launched, as North Korean government claims, in a location given as North Gyeongsang province, North Korea in this handout picture obtained by Reuters on 21 November 2023. (KCNA via Reuters)

The world will see a more provocative North Korea

Academic Kang Jun-young examines the recent rhetoric by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, especially comments relating to the prospect of nuclear war. How likely is that, and how will continuing US-China tensions and upheavals in this year of elections around the world affect the stability of the Korean peninsula?
A man holds a portrait of slain Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani on 5 January 2024 in the Iranian capital Tehran. (Atta Kenare/AFP)

Terrorist attack in Iran sends shockwaves closer to China’s borders

With the latest 4 January bombing in Iran by the Islamic State, likely by the ISKP (Islamic State Khorasan Province) branch of the grouping, China is facing a renewed threat of one of its greatest fears: terrorism connecting the Middle East and Central Asia.
Chinese Premier Li Qiang speaks at the 20th China-ASEAN Expo in Nanning, Guangxi province, China, on 17 September 2023. (SPH Media)

China’s 'community of shared future' with Southeast Asia: Behind the numbers

Seven ASEAN member states have signed on to China’s “community of shared future” more for mutually beneficial cooperation than because they subscribe fully to the Chinese vision of a new regional order. The remaining three may prefer practical cooperation rather than to be enmeshed in China’s grand strategy and discourse.
William Lai Ching-te, Taiwan's vice president and the ruling Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) presidential candidate, waves to supporters at an election campaign event in Taipei, Taiwan, 3 January 2024. (Ann Wang/Reuters)

Is mainland China the only one interfering in the Taiwan elections?

While criticisms are levelled at mainland China for apparent interference in the upcoming Taiwan elections, it seems there is another less overt player — the US. Is it fair to only notice mainland China’s actions while overlooking US efforts? Meanwile, as the ruling DPP continues to use “China's interference in the elections” as a means to deal with its political opponents, this might intensify cross-strait animosity that could be hard to reverse.
People wearing face masks wait at an intersection in Beijing's central business district in China, on 1 November 2023. (Tingshu Wang/Reuters)

The China factor behind several Indo-Pacific hotspots

US researcher Wei Da gives a threat assessment of potential hotspots in 2024, from the South China Sea to the Taiwan Strait, the Korean peninsula and the Ukraine war, with the China factor in mind.