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President Jokowi listens to explanation on Natuna Water map at Lampa Strait Integrated Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Center Natuna Regency, 8 January 2020. (Cabinet Secretariat of Indonesia website)

[South China Sea] Pandemic and US-Japan support reasons for Indonesia’s strong stance on SCS

In late May, Indonesia wrote to the UN to register its objection to China’s nine-dash line in the South China Sea (SCS), saying that there is no legal basis for China’s claim. China academic Long Yan notes that this is quite an unexpected move from the relatively quiet Indonesia, who is not a main player in the SCS dispute. It remains to be seen if external support from countries such as Japan and the US will boost Indonesia’s confidence in protecting its rights and interests in the SCS, despite its strong economic ties with China.
HMAS Parramatta (C) breaks away from USS America (R) and USS Bunker Hill (L) on completion of officer of the watch manoeuvres in the South China Sea, in this 18 April 2020 handout photo. (Australia Department Of Defence/Handout via REUTERS)

Australia boosting security relations with Southeast Asia and the US in the face of heightened threats

Australia’s recently-released defence update may be the most consequential document yet in terms of Canberra’s defence relations with Southeast Asia. Australia is asking its Southeast Asia partners to do more, while offering them more in return. It is also boosting its military self-reliance and its alliance relationship with the US.
A government supporter wearing a protective mask holds Chinese and Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) flags to celebrate the passage of a national security law in Hong Kong, China, on 30 June 2020. (Lam Yik/Bloomberg)

There will be no peaceful rise — China-US relations enters a new phase

In a recent report outlining its approach to China, the US indicated that it will be guided by “principled realism” in strategic competition with China. Chinese academic Yu Zhi believes that this is a sign of the two countries moving into a “curtailment and containment” phase in their relations. Whoever the next President is, the US line on China looks set to hold. This stance harks back to the beginning of US-China relations, albeit with some adjustments. In any event, both countries are bracing themselves for a rough ride ahead.
Anti-national security law protesters throw mock paper money during a march against national security law on the anniversary of Hong Kong's handover to China from Britain, in Hong Kong, China, 1 July 2020. (Tyrone Siu/Reuters)

Is Hong Kong the ‘ground zero of a China-US Cold War’?

Hong Kong and its uncertain future has become a political metaphor for China-US relations and the future of the world order, says Zheng Weibin. If the passage of the national security law portends that “one country, two systems” is not viable in practice, what else is there left except for an all-out duel between socialism and capitalism?
People wearing face masks walk in front of the entrance of the Forbidden City, while the closing of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference takes place in Beijing, 27 May 2020. (Noel Celis/AFP)

Modernise China’s governance? Get rid of deities and emperors

China has put a lot of effort into modernising its governance system over the decades, but it still seems to miss the mark or to have even regressed in some areas. EAI academic Lance Gore puts this down to a muddled understanding of what true modernisation entails. Cult of personality, formalism, and conformity still permeate the system to a large degree, such that decision-makers live in a bubble thinking that all is well.
Demonstrators raise their fists as they gather on 2 June 2020 in Saint Paul, Minnesota, to protest the death of George Floyd while in police custody. (Chandan Khanna/AFP)

A 'left-wing cultural revolution' has come to America?

There is little doubt that the US is in disarray at the moment. Hong Kong political commentator Chip Tsao does not hold back in giving his views on the current situation in the US, claiming that America’s move to the left after eight years under the Democratic Party have worsened the culture of political correctness and left little room for policies that motivate disadvantaged groups to keep their feet on the ground and contribute to society. The middle class is also made to shoulder growing societal and financial burdens. In that light, would the prospect of a change in the US government in five months time be a boon or bane?
A member of a local community group holds Chinese and Hong Kong flags as she disembarks from a boat in Victoria Harbour on the 23rd anniversary of the city's handover from Britain in Hong Kong on 1 July 2020. (Anthony Wallace/AFP)

The fight over Hong Kong: Does it belong to China or the world?

From the speed and single-mindedness with which Beijing has passed the national security law for Hong Kong, it is evident that it is highly suspicious of foreign intervention and threats to national sovereignty. With the enactment of this law, it may have reaffirmed its authority and returned Hong Kong firmly under its wings, but has it achieved the return of the hearts and minds of the Hong Kong people? And while Beijing believes that it owns Hong Kong, some Hong Kongers and the Western world think otherwise.
People watch as fireworks are launched in Times Square as part of the annual Macy's 4th of July Fireworks on 1 July 2020 in New York City. (Cindy Ord/Getty Images/AFP)

A great America is in China's interest

Japan-based academic Zhang Yun says America's global strategy to create a unipolar order during the post-Cold War period is a mistake. But it does not mean that it has lost its window of “strategically opportune time” to be a great country. In asking "Who lost the US?" and "How America can truly be great again?", he comes to the conclusion that a great America will not only benefit itself and the world, but be in the interest of China.
Two girls wearing face masks ride a scooter past a mural reading "whatever Indonesia" in Tangerang on 23 May 2020. (Fajrin Raharjo/AFP)

Beyond ASEAN: More 'no-superpower coalitions' needed as US-China rivalry upsets global interests

With China more aggressive and the US more unpredictable, and both more unilateralist, the US-China rivalry has ended the post-Cold War order that benefited Southeast Asia and ASEAN. ISEAS academics Malcolm Cook and Hoang Thi Ha note that Southeast Asian states should consider joining more or establishing minilateral informal coalitions that do not include China and the US.