ASEAN

In this file photo tourists wearing facemasks walk on the reopened Liberty Island in front of the Statue of Liberty on 20 July 2020 in New York City. (Johannes Eisele/AFP)

Setting the rules: 'Non-negotiables' in a US-Southeast Asia relationship

Since 2016, China has presented itself as a strategic competitor to the US. In turn, the Trump administration has been accused of incoherence in its policies toward China and its approach to the Indo-Pacific has led to concerns in regional states. Whether Trump or Biden wins in November, Washington needs to recognise some non-negotiables with regards to Southeast Asia: the avoidance of presenting binary choices for regional states to make amid Sino-US rivalry; the need for a looser cooperative approach in pushing back China’s assertiveness, particularly in the South China Sea; and the need to build regional connectivity networks and infrastructure.  
China paramount leader Deng Xiaoping (left) is seen shaking hands with Singapore founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew when Deng first visited Singapore, November 1978. (Ministry of Information and the Arts)

Reflections by George Yeo: Celebrating 30 years of diplomatic relations between Singapore and China

Singapore's former Foreign Minister George Yeo looks back at the years of engagement between Singapore and China, including the period before the two countries established formal diplomatic ties. He says that while Singapore’s “Chinese-ness” had some part to play in building strong ties over the years, it is paramount that this be distinguished from Singapore’s status as an independent, sovereign, multiracial country. As China continues to rise and US-China tensions continue to fester, ASEAN and Singapore would need to be watchful of issues that could derail relations with China. Notwithstanding, there is much room for cooperation that the region can be sanguine about.
Prabowo Subianto looks on before taking his oath as appointed Defense Minister during the inauguration at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta, Indonesia, 23 October 2019. (Willy Kurniawan/REUTERS)

After a 20-year ban, why was Indonesia's Prabowo invited to the US?

Indonesian Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto's visit to Washington DC has raised many eyebrows and questions, says Leo Suryadinata. Is the US worried about Indonesia leaning too much towards China?
A street vendor pushes her cart in the rain in Hanoi, 15 October 2020. (Nhac Nguyen/AFP)

How should Southeast Asian countries respond to an upsurge in Chinese investment

In this geostrategic climate, Southeast Asian countries should welcome rather than reject investments from China for their own developmental needs. Welcoming Chinese investment will also likely spur competing investments from the West and Japan.
A news report on Chinese President Xi Jinping's speech in the city of Shenzhen is shown on a public screen in Hong Kong, China, on 14 October 2020. (Roy Liu/Bloomberg)

Quad: Containing China should not be the raison d’être for any grouping

When asked in a recent interview to comment on the joint push for a "free and open Indo-Pacific" and whether it was realistic to formalise such an institution, former US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said he would like a coalition in the Asia-Pacific and the Indo-Pacific but not a coalition against something. His view is markedly different from that of many Trump officials, and is similar to that of Japan and many countries in Southeast Asia.
People wearing facemasks as a preventive measure against the Covid-19 coronavirus crowd in a market area in the old quarters of New Delhi on 11 October 2020. (Photo by Sajjad HUSSAIN / AFP)

China has a long-term strategy in Southeast Asia. But what about India?

China is taking action to deepen economic engagement with Southeast Asia. India, despite Prime Minister Modi’s Act East rhetoric, is not.
U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden delivers remarks during a Voter Mobilization Event campaign stop at the Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal in Cincinnati, Ohio, 12 October 2020. (Tom Brenner/REUTERS)

A Biden presidency: Revenge of the 'Asia-Pacific' over the 'Indo-Pacific'?

The much-ballyhooed “Indo-Pacific” term has gained much traction in the region in recent years. It is believed that the term helps to expand the regional framework to include India as a major power, and balance against China’s growing influence. The new Democratic Party platform, however, pointedly excludes the use of the term, and touts the older “Asia-Pacific” instead. Is this Biden’s attempt at getting at Trump?
US President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden participate in their first 2020 presidential campaign debate held on the campus of the Cleveland Clinic at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, US, 29 September 2020. (Brian Snyder/REUTERS)

Trump vs Biden: Who makes a better choice for Southeast Asia

US President Donald Trump did not meet a single leader from Southeast Asia since November last year. Despite his administration's seemingly disengaged approach, US relations with key Southeast Asian states including Vietnam and Thailand have improved. ISEAS academics Ian Storey and Malcolm Cook look at the Trump administration's engagement data with Southeast Asian countries over the past year, the party platforms of both the Republicans and the Democrats, as well as recent developments in the region, as they give their take on the possible regional geopolitical environment after the presidential election.
Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Joe Biden speaks during a campaign stop in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, 6 October 2020. (Kevin Lamarque/REUTERS)

How a Biden presidency can win back lost American influence in Southeast Asia

If elected the president of the US, Joe Biden will not necessarily gain traction in Southeast Asia by simply not being Trump. He will have to bring tangible economic and political options to the table, and harness the intrinsic power of America’s network of allies and partners.