ISEAS academic Daljit Singh notes that the new great power contest has spilled over into the Indian Ocean, and the term “Indo-Pacific” will better reflect the strategic geography of this central theatre of the 21st century great power struggle.
China will continue to flex its e-commerce muscles in 2021, predicts Associate Professor Chu Junhong from the NUS Business School. Expect a strong dose of cross-border e-commerce, live-streaming e-commerce, and more eye-catching short videos that promise great returns on “retailtainment”.
Zheng Weibin asserts that the US will soon be stepping back into an international arena that is much changed. The US cannot hope to regain a unipolar dominance, if it arguably ever had it. Rather, a multipolarity ruled by regional pockets of issues-based interests is taking shape, starting in Asia.
EAI academic Yu Hong notes that the RCEP will bring greater regional economic integration by increasing trade in Asia-Pacific and generating new business opportunities for companies in the 15 member countries of ASEAN, China, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and Australia. China and ASEAN in particular, are well-placed to reap many of the benefits.
ISEAS academics Malcolm Cook and Ian Storey note that Southeast Asia would welcome a Biden administration policy towards Asia that is less confrontational and unilateralist, and firmer and more action-oriented. The region's governments prefer the new US administration to adopt a less confrontational stance towards China and lower US-China tensions. But while they welcome increased US economic and security engagement with the region, they are less enthusiastic about Biden’s emphasis on human rights and democracy.
Post Covid-19, while it seems that a world economy with two centres of dynamism — one America, the other China — is setting in, and “decoupling” and “deglobalisation” are becoming catchwords of the new era, academic Zha Daojiong notes that there are a few bright spots amid the gloom. Moreover, the new normal in China-US relations may be more stable and less worrying for Southeast Asia than commonly thought.
Zheng Weibin assesses that the future of the US’s leading role in Asia depends on whether it can see itself retreating from the region and letting their allies in Asian exert influence by proxy. If that is the case, Taiwan may no longer be such a key set piece. Moreover, if both the US and China recalibrate their thinking about each other, they might reach a consensus on coexistence.
Professor He Yafei, a former vice-minister at the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, delivered the keynote address at the Lianhe Zaobao Singapore-China Forum on 3 December. He touched on the imperatives of a new multipolar world, highlighting that being economically close to China, but relying on the US for security protection, is not going to work for the Southeast Asian region. He also spoke about Singapore and China working together bilaterally, for instance in terms of China’s new dual circulation economy, as well in the regional and international arena. Below is the edited transcript of his speech and QnA.
With the recent signing of the RCEP and China’s comment that it will “favourably consider” joining the CPTPP, are prospects looking up for greater domestic reform and regional economic integration across the board, and will dreams of a free trade area of the Asia-Pacific have a higher chance of eventually taking shape? Japan-based academic Zhang Yun looks at the potential outlook.