Politics

Fumio Kishida, Japan's prime minister, center, during a group photograph with his new cabinet members at prime minister's official residence in Tokyo, Japan, on 4 October 2021. (Stainislav Kogiku/SOPA Images/Bloomberg)

Can Japan rise above faction politics and become the 'bridge to the world' under new PM Kishida?

Fumio Kishida became the new Japanese prime minister despite a relatively weak political base. This shows that faction politics within the Liberal Democratic Party still provided some measure of stability in influencing outcomes. However, public opinion has landed on the side of wanting a leader with the gumption and vision to implement reforms and improve the plight of the Japanese people. But will this new administration be a force for change as the people want, or will the Japanese government go back to the days of having a new prime minister each year? Japan-based academic Zhang Yun takes us through.
Japan's newly elected Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) leader Fumio Kishida and his predecessor Yoshihide Suga stand on stage following the LDP leadership vote in Tokyo, Japan, 29 September 2021. (Kyodo/via Reuters)

Will the new Japanese PM Kishida do better than his predecessor Suga in foreign relations?

New Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has just formed his Cabinet, and it remains to be seen whether and how relations with China will be affected. Japanese academic Shin Kawashima gives an analysis.
US President Joe Biden speaks to reporters before boarding Air Force One to depart Capital Region International Airport in Lansing, Michigan, US, 5 October 2021. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Japanese academic: US moving away from ASEAN centrality to defend its regional interests

With AUKUS and the Quad, Japanese academic Sahashi Ryo argues that the US is seeking to distance itself from the region’s ASEAN-centric mechanisms, despite assurances to the contrary. While both the US and China are working hard to make their presence felt in the region, Ryo says someone is acting out of undue haste and probably needs more time to figure out how to create its desired world order under mounting competition.
Caution tape is seen near the Chinese embassy as activists hold a demonstration calling on Chinese President Xi Jinping to "allow safe passage to North Koreans detained in China" in Washington, DC on 24 September 2021. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP)

The war on terrorism has ended. Can the US win the next battle of great power competition?

Twenty years after the historic 9/11 attacks on the US, the threat of terrorism has largely been contained and a new era of great power competition has returned. ISEAS researcher Daljit Singh notes that in the past century, the US has been adamant about not letting any single power dominate East Asia, and will most probably continue to do so. What will this new era be like when the US's competitor is a rising China? And what can Southeast Asian states do about it?
Taliban fighters patrol along a road on the backdrop of a mural painted on the wall of a flyover in Kabul on 26 September 2021. (Hoshang Hashimi/AFP)

Japanese academic: Japan's role in Afghanistan after US withdrawal

Japanese academic Kazuto Suzuki observes conflicting approaches in how the West and China are handling Afghanistan matters after the Taliban takeover. He says while Japan had made some headway in helping to eliminate the Taliban and build up the country, its progress was disrupted by the US's withdrawal from Afghanistan and it now has to redefine its modus operandi in the changed landscape. How can Japan play a role now in building better lives for the people of Afghanistan?
People check their phones near a Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics-themed floral installation set up ahead of the Chinese National Day, in Beijing, China, 30 September 2021. (Florence Lo/Reuters)

China has a zero-Covid policy. Can it pull off a spectacular Winter Olympics?

With China's zero-Covid policy, the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics will be one of those first events where China opens its doors amid the pandemic to a large number of foreign visitors. Beijing seems to have prepared itself, with recent announcements of explicit vaccination rules and a closed-loop management system to keep all involved in a supervised bubble. While the Covid-19 regulations for the Beijing Winter Olympics look set to be stricter than those for the Tokyo Olympics, domestic spectators will be allowed at the Beijing Games, unlike the Tokyo Games which limited the attendance of domestic spectators or totally banned them in certain venues. Can Beijing pull off a spectacular Winter Olympics despite heightening global tensions and the pandemic?
A health worker inoculates a woman with a dose of the Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine during a mass vaccination at a zoo in Surabaya, Indonesia, on 13 September 2021. (Juni Kriswanto/AFP)

China's vaccine diplomacy in Southeast Asia is working, but can it keep up the good work?

For several years now, China has sought to increase its soft power, spending resources to do so, including through providing funding for its Belt and Road Initiative and Confucius Institutes. But its plan has not been very effective, not least because it is often perceived to use coercion more than persuasion. But after conducting rounds of vaccine diplomacy during Covid-19 pandemic, are its efforts finally bearing fruit?
Coast guard officers stand on the deck of the Indian Coast Guard offshore patrol vessel 'VIGRAHA' during its commissioning ceremony, in Chennai, India, on 28 August 2021. (Indian Navy/AFP)

With China’s increasing assertiveness, India’s active role in the Indian Ocean matters more than ever

India’s geostrategic location enables it to occupy a central position in the Indian Ocean region, although it has traditionally shown a reluctance to get too involved. This is all changing with China exerting a greater presence in the region and India’s own involvement in the Quad and a greater alignment of its Indian Ocean strategy with the “free and open Indo-Pacific” concept. In the last few years, it has stepped up its aid and outreach missions, as well as military partnerships with various stakeholders in the Indian Ocean. Indian academic Amrita Jash examines the impetus for and extent of India's shift.
A television displays news about Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi's visit to Vietnam, at a street in Hanoi, Vietnam, 11 September 2021. (Stringer/Reuters)

What Vietnam and China want from each other amid strengthening Vietnam-US ties

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi paid an official visit to Vietnam on 10-12 September as part of Beijing’s efforts to reassert its influence on Vietnam and pull Hanoi back from its perceived ‘tilt’ towards Washington. Hosting Wang Yi provided Vietnam with an opportunity to address existing issues in bilateral relations and certain domestic concerns, especially to secure China’s support for the Covid-19 response. However, Vietnam-China relations are fundamentally constrained by strategic distrust over the South China Sea dispute. The intensifying China-US strategic competition is another challenge for Hanoi.