South China Sea

This handout photo taken and released by the Indian Navy on 17 November 2020 shows ships taking part in the second phase of the Malabar naval exercise in the Arabian sea. India, Australia, Japan and the United States started the second phase of a strategic navy drill in the Northern Arabian sea. (Indian Navy/AFP)

Indo-Pacific: The central theatre of 21st century great power struggle

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.
This photo taken on 4 January 2021 shows Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers assembling during military training at Pamir Mountains in Kashgar, northwestern China's Xinjiang region. (STR/AFP)

Japanese academic: China needs to show more self-restraint in PLA's military activities

The Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) has ramped up its military activities in the South China Sea, East China Sea and around the island of Taiwan in the year 2020. Japanese academic Sugiura Yasuyuki believes that such actions will continue to escalate this coming year. He thinks China needs to exercise some restraint to avoid destabilising the status quo in the East Asia region.
President-elect Joe Biden is briefed by expert members of his national security and foreign policy agency review teams at the Queen Theater on 28 December 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware. (Mark Makela/AFP)

Japanese academic: Biden must not underestimate China's maritime ambitions

With US President-elect Joe Biden all but ready to be installed in the White House in January, Japanese academic Masafumi Iida explores how the new administration might shape the US's relations with East Asia, especially in terms of the US's military presence in the Indo-Pacific region. He argues that it is necessary for the US to learn from the failures of the Obama administration in underestimating the prowess and ambitions of China.
This photograph taken on 8 December 2020 shows a vendor steering her boat while looking for customers at the Damnoen Saduak floating market, nearly deserted with few tourists due to ongoing Covid-19 coronavirus travel restrictions, some 100km southwest of Bangkok. (Mladen Antonov/AFP)

What Southeast Asia wants from the impending Biden presidency

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.
Chinese and US flags fly along Pennsylvania Avenue outside the White House in Washington, 18 January 2011. (Kevin Lamarque/File Photo/Reuters)

'Relying on the US for security and China for economic benefits is absurd'

From China’s perspective, Australia has been trying to have its cake and eat it too by seeking to rely on the US for security and China for economic benefits. If recent frictions are anything to go by, this balancing act is fraught with contradictions. Will Australia and other countries start to see that the Asia-Pacific’s interests are best served by both China and the US having a stake in the security and economic well-being of the region?
Military personnel walk past a banner promoting the ASEAN summit in Hanoi, Vietnam, 11 November 2020. (Kham/Reuters)

Former Chinese Vice-Minister He Yafei: Singapore and ASEAN have important roles to play in a multipolar world

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.
Singapore's Ambassador-at-Large Chan Heng Chee. (SPH)

Ambassador Chan Heng Chee: The future of Singapore-China strategic collaboration

Professor Chan Heng Chee, Ambassador-at-Large and Singapore’s former ambassador to the US, addressed the Lianhe Zaobao Singapore-China Forum on 4 December via Zoom. She said that there is still much that Singapore and China can work together on, such as in tightening the nuts and bolts of the recently signed RCEP, enhancing the ASEAN-China FTA, exchanging views on the CPTPP and WTO reform, and facilitating cooperation in the digital sector.
A street vendor walks past a billboard for a photo studio featuring an image of US President Donald Trump in Hanoi, 24 November 2020. (Nhac Nguyen/AFP)

America's coming back — but ASEAN will cope, with or without her

Since President Donald Trump yanked the US out of the TPP as part of his “America First” doctrine in 2017, Southeast Asia has been more without Trump than with. In fact, America is increasingly seen as a declining power in Southeast Asia and countries in the region are adjusting to this reality. ISEAS academic William Choong explains what this means for the US, China and ASEAN.
This picture taken and released on 21 November 2020 by the Vietnam News Agency shows Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc (R) bumping elbows to greet US National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien during a meeting in Hanoi. (Vietnam News Agency/AFP)

Robust US-Vietnam relations to continue under Biden presidency

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.