Malaysia

This file photo taken on April 21, 2017 shows an aerial shot of a reef in the disputed Spratly islands. (Ted Aljibe/AFP)

SEA states have few options to mitigate escalating South China Sea tensions

Tensions in the South China Sea have surged since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. China has pressed its jurisdictional claims prompting the US to increase its criticism of Beijing’s actions and its military presence in the South China Sea. In response to China’s activities, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam have rejected Beijing’s nine-dash line claims and invoked international law and the 2016 Arbitral Tribunal ruling in support of their maritime sovereign rights. ISEAS academic Ian Storey takes stock of the situation and gives a broad sweep of what we can expect in the next 18 months.
A stretch of the 400-kilometre long China-Laos railway in Vientiane, 29 July 2020. (Xinhua)

China's Belt and Road Initiative faces huge challenges in Southeast Asia

Beijing has pledged financing, materials, technology and manpower to build railroads, hydropower stations and other infrastructure projects in Southeast Asian countries under the BRI. But China continues to face enormous challenges getting projects off the ground in countries that need the investment most. US academic Murray Hiebert examines why.
A massive poster of Deng Xiaoping is seen in Shenzhen, Guangdong, China to commemorate Deng's Southern Tour of 1992, 17 January 2012. (SPH)

What can Deng Xiaoping teach us about diplomacy today?

In Wei Da’s view, diplomacy is not rocket science. Diplomacy is conducted to smooth the creases and pave the way for countries to promote peace and cooperation. The devil is in the details on how countries seek to achieve that. In China’s case, Deng Xiaoping had laid out the broad strokes of an overarching strategy more than 30 years ago. While China finds itself in a much more challenging environment today, many of his approaches are still very relevant.
A crew member on the RSS Vigour acting as the lookout at the bridge as the team investigates a potential contact of interest. (MINDEF)

Hanging tough together: ASEAN countries' survival strategy amid Sino-US rivalry

Rising Sino-US rivalry and a rapidly changing geopolitical environment means that smaller states in the Asia-Pacific are increasingly compelled to “choose sides” between the two major powers. They are, however, not short of options.
A boy sits on a bench on Batu Burok beach in Kuala Terengganu, in Malaysia by the South China Sea, on 26 June 2020. (Mohd Rasfan/AFP)

[South China Sea] Is Malaysia adopting a more confrontational SCS policy? 

In recent years, Malaysia seems to have moved away from its role as a “low-profile pragmatist” in the South China Sea dispute as it seeks to assert its rights over oil and gas exploration in the disputed waters, and as its threat perceptions of China increase. It looks set to continue butting heads with China amid the ongoing global pandemic and increasing US-China competition in the region.
Members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group take part in a military parade during a condolences ceremony for the movement's former leader Ramadan Shalah in Gaza city, on 8 June 2020, two days after his death in neighbouring Lebanon. (Mohammed Abed/AFP)

Battling atheist China: US highlights Xinjiang issue and religious freedom in Indo-Pacific region

Ma Haiyun says that the US and China’s relations with the Muslim world have been a sticking point — for very different reasons. Yet as the US turns its focus to the Indo-Pacific region, Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East may feel increasingly marginalised by geopolitical shifts and feel even more compelled to use their views on the Palestinian and Uighur issue as a vote of allegiance for the US or China. In Southeast Asia, the Muslim-majority countries face even more pressure as US-China competition intensifies in their own backyard. Whichever side they are on, all parties are gearing up for the next phase of US-China competition to be fought in the arena of global religious freedom.
A jetty in Sabah, Borneo. Malaysia has claims in the South China Sea against China as well as other SEA countries. (iStock)

Amid domestic political change, Malaysia sticks to trusted formula for South China Sea disputes

After decades, claims by various countries in the South China Sea remain unresolved. ISEAS senior fellow Ian Storey focuses on Malaysia, noting that while its leadership has changed, its strategy towards handling China with regard to the South China Sea has remained the same.
Chen Cuifen was not recognised. History does not remember her name. Her relationship with Sun Yat-sen was never made public. (SPH)

Sun Yat-sen’s lover Cuifen and her Malaysia villa

What will matter most on one’s deathbed? For Chen Cuifen, partner of Sun Yat-sen, it was a gold ring and a pocket watch, engraved with Sun’s English name.