South China Sea

Indonesian President Joko Widodo and Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi walk as they attend the ASEAN leaders' summit at the the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) secretariat building in Jakarta, Indonesia, 24 April 2021. (Muchlis Jr/Indonesian Presidential Palace/Handout via Reuters)

Is Indonesia's foreign policy tilting towards Beijing?

Indonesian academic Aristyo Rizka Darmawan looks at Indonesia's engagement with China in recent years and notes that Indonesia has adopted a foreign policy that is driven by economic interest and transactional considerations. Despite its increased engagement with China, Jakarta would need to upkeep its relationships with other regional powers for a good balance.
A UH-1J helicopter flies during a live fire exercise at Japan's Ground Self-Defense Forces (JGSDF) training grounds in the East Fuji Manuever Area in Gotemba on 22 May 2021. (Akio Kon/AFP)

Japan’s weapons transfers to Southeast Asia: Opportunities and challenges

Research fellow Victor Teo says that Japan’s re-emergence as a weapon exporter is fuelled by desires to increase Japanese capabilities, counteract China’s rise, hedge against possible future strategic abandonment by the US, fund next-generation weapon research, and foster Japan’s global leadership and influence in Southeast Asia. Using its overseas development assistance to the region, it is promoting the transfer of weapon systems, naval vessels and surveillance planes, particularly to Southeast Asian claimant states in the South China Sea. What are the implications of these actions?
This handout photo from the Royal Malaysian Air Force taken on 31 May 2021 and released on 1 June shows a Chinese People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) Xian Y-20 aircraft that Malaysian authorities said was in the airspace over Malaysia's maritime zone near the coast of Sarawak state on Borneo island. (Handout/Royal Malaysian Air Force/AFP)

Can Malaysia handle intrusions by the Chinese air force?

The 31 May incident, in which 16 Chinese military planes entered the airspace above Malaysia’s exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea, raises questions about Malaysia's ability to handle such occurrences in the future, says RSIS researcher Wu Shang-Su. He takes a hard look at Malaysia’s airpower capabilities.
Philippine Coast Guard personnel are seen onboard rubber boats as they sail near Chinese vessels believed to be manned by Chinese maritime militia personnel at Whitsun Reef, South China Sea, in a handout photo distributed by the Philippine Coast guard 15 April 2021. (Philippine Coast Guard/Handout via Reuters)

Philippine-US cooperation on Whitsun Reef: A 'win' for the Biden team in Southeast Asia?

Southeast Asian views of the US declined during the Trump administration, and persisted into the Biden administration early on in the year. But Washington’s sustained support for Manila amid the latter’s recent confrontation with China in the South China Sea has helped to offset negative perceptions of Uncle Sam in the region.
A food delivery motorist rides on a street as deliveries rise due to lockdown restrictions introduced to try to halt a surge in cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus in Phnom Penh on 26 April 2021. (Tang Chhin Sothy/AFP)

Japan passes China in the sprint to win Cambodian hearts and minds

Since 2010, Japan’s foreign policy toward Cambodia includes a new geopolitical dimension of balancing China’s influence in Cambodia, including strategies such as non-interference in Cambodia’s domestic affairs and providing development assistance that aligns with the Cambodian government’s development plan, focusing on infrastructure, human capital development, and agriculture. Japan has been relatively successful given the Cambodian population’s mixed reactions to China’s engagement in Cambodia. And it seems that Cambodia will continue to benefit from Japan's balancing-China strategy, as long as China-Japan rivalry stays manageable.   
A woman receives her first dose of China's Sinovac Biotech vaccine for the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) during a mass vaccination program for vendors and workers at a shopping mall in Tangerang, on the outskirts of Jakarta, Indonesia, 1 March 2021. (Ajeng Dinar Ulfiana/Reuters)

Will Indonesia-China vaccine cooperation affect Jakarta's South China Sea stance?

Indonesia is among the Southeast Asian nations most heavily stricken by the Covid-19 pandemic, and the ASEAN country that conducts the most comprehensive vaccine cooperation with China. Still, it has tried to diversify its vaccine supply to avoid being over-reliant on China's vaccine. Unsurprisingly, China’s vaccine diplomacy in Southeast Asia carries an expectation that recipient countries should be more accommodating on the South China Sea issue. Will Indonesia's resolve to stand firm on ASEAN’s position on the South China Sea waver?
Vietnamese military new recruits at a ceremony before leaving for military service, in Hanoi, Vietnam, 27 February 2021. (Thanh Hue/Reuters)

Rising tensions in the South China Sea: Rising power of Vietnamese army

The Vietnam People’s Army (VPA) appears to be gaining leverage in Vietnam’s political system. This increasing influence reflects the security concerns of the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) over growing tensions in the South China Sea, and its political position has also benefited from the growing importance of the defence industry and the commercial success of military-run businesses. How would such a development affect Vietnam's political, economic and foreign policy outlook?
People walk past an H&M clothing store in Beijing on 25 March 2021. (Greg Baker/AFP)

Did H&M kowtow to China? The Vietnamese think so and Hanoi is encouraging online nationalism

Vietnam has effectively fanned the flames of online nationalism in its altercation with a Swedish fast-fashion retailer — and by extension, China. It has to be careful not to stoke the flames too far.
The USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) is pictured as it enters the port in Da Nang, Vietnam, 5 March 2020. (Kham/Reuters)

Indo-Pacific: Central theatre of America's struggle against its antagonist, China

It is easy to find fault with the recently declassified version of the US’s strategic framework for the Indo-Pacific. The fact remains, however, that the US is making strategic adjustments to steel itself for years, if not decades, of strategic competition with China.