In January 2021, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited several ASEAN countries, including Brunei, Indonesia, Myanmar and the Philippines, in an effort to push for collaboration in key projects under the BRI, and providing access to Chinese vaccines. However, Beijing’s passage of a new coastguard law has undermined Wang Yi’s outreach efforts. ISEAS academic Lye Liang Fook explains what is behind China's efforts and looks into its implications.
The West and certain countries in Asia have very different perceptions of the use of big data and AI to monitor its population and even build a social credit system. French academic Nicolas Lainez reviews China's social credit system and discusses the possibility of Vietnam adopting it to strengthen the government's control over society. However, he says the political risks may outweigh its benefits.
Many Vietnamese feel that their country has benefited much from US President Donald Trump’s policies, such as his tough stance on China and the US-China trade war. However, that does not mean that US-Vietnam relations will lose its momentum under a Biden presidency as the two countries strategic goals are aligned, says ISEAS academic Le Hong Hiep.
Cambodia’s post-pandemic foreign policy is constrained by the need to sustain its economic growth while maintaining independence and sovereignty, amid the challenge and uncertainty caused by the growing strategic competition between China and the US. Academic Kimkong Heng says Cambodia needs to refrain from actions that appear to serve China’s core strategic interests, proactively engage all strategic partners, and walk a diplomatic tightrope between China and the US.
In this era of blossoming social media, anti-China sentiments have morphed and manifested online, compelling Vietnamese authorities to keep close tabs on it. ISEAS academic Dien Nguyen An Luong examines how the Vietnamese authorities have increasingly looked to social media to gauge anti-China sentiments and to calibrate their responses accordingly.
Despite US efforts to reduce reliance on China and decouple from it, the process will not be easy, given China’s enormous economic influence. Even with countries such as Vietnam trying to take China’s place as the “world’s factory”, their capacity is limited. However, this does not mean that China’s position is assured, as other countries are noticing China’s penchant for using its economic might as a bargaining chip.
With Vietnam at the helm of ASEAN this year, the grouping has wielded the aegis of international law to ensure that international and regional concerns about the South China Sea are respected in Code of Conduct negotiations. ISEAS academic Hoang Thi Ha says that while China prefers to settle SCS issues between itself and ASEAN member states, this is not what ASEAN has in mind.
For all of President Trump’s failings, says US academic Han Dongping, he did persist in his belief that the US has over-extended itself abroad and sought ways to pull it back. Whoever becomes the US president next will have to recognise that the US’s global role has changed irrevocably since 1945.
Vietnam is caught geopolitically between America, the dominant power, and China, the emerging power. While some observers argue that Vietnam can continue to maintain a neutral position, many smaller states are increasingly finding it difficult to maintain the balancing act. Vietnamese academic Huynh Tam Sang suggests that facing a more assertive China, Vietnam should edge closer to the US by adopting a US-Vietnam “soft alignment” framework where America provides more support for Vietnam’s defence and security needs.