China influence

A view of the Mekong between Don Det and Don Khon, Si Phan Don, Laos, May 2019. (Wikimedia)

American researcher: China's upstream dams threaten economy and security of Mekong region

China’s 11 hydropower dams built on the upper Mekong River held back massive quantities of water over the last two years, causing crop failure and depleting fish catches, and threatening the livelihoods of the 60 million people living downstream. Besides, China has financed half of Laos’ 60 dams on Mekong tributaries and two more on the mainstream, pushing Laos' debt levels to about US$17 billion in 2019, nearly equivalent to the country’s annual GDP. Furthermore, other projects in Thailand have been cancelled out of concern that it would give Beijing too much strategic and economic influence deep into mainland Southeast Asia. American researcher Murray Hiebert explains the situation.
Protesters hold coffins displaying a picture of Chinese President Xi Jinping (left) and Myanmar military chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing (right) during a demonstration in New Delhi on 3 March 2021, to protest against the military coup in Myanmar. (Prakash Singh/AFP)

Why the Chinese are confused by ‘ungrateful’ anti-China sentiments in Myanmar

Chinese academic Fan Hongda notes that mutual benefit is the real driver of bilateral relations, and expecting “gratitude” for maintaining ties is not the way to go. China would do well to rethink its mindset in international relations and the role it plays in the world.
A protester holds up a sign of detained Myanmar civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi as they take part in a demonstration outside the Chinese Embassy against the military coup in Yangon on 13 February 2021. (STR/AFP)

From Yangon to Hong Kong: Why locals attack mainland Chinese companies during political unrest

Zaobao journalist Tai Hing Shing notes that mainland Chinese companies in Hong Kong, Yangon and elsewhere often find themselves targets of attack. Why are they so unpopular in the very communities they seek to bring greater economic activity to? Perhaps they are expanding too much, too soon and too fast, giving little opportunities for locals to adapt. But their work cultures probably also play a big role. 
People walk in the Montorgueil street in Paris, France, 25 February 2021. (Sarah Meyssonnier/Reuters)

French cultural and academic institutions alarmed by China's influence

Recent incidents in France’s academic and cultural arenas are making the French take notice of what they perceive as China’s attempts to exert its influence, and there are growing calls for institutions and individuals to maintain independence. France-based journalist Justin Zhang explores the issue.
A picture of Chinese President Xi Jinping overlooks a street ahead of the National People's Congress (NPC), in Shanghai, China, 1 March 2021. (Aly Song/Reuters)

Why Southeast Asia has a love-hate relationship with China

The State of Southeast Asia: 2021 Survey Report shows that many acknowledge yet fear China’s economic dominance. What is behind this enigma of a Southeast Asia that welcomes yet worries about China? Lee Huay Leng assesses that it is a confluence of factors, both external and internal to China. A change in tone, mindset and behaviour is in order if China is to be truly understood by the people it seeks to influence.
People wait at a traffic light on a street in Phnom Penh on 11 January 2021. (Tang Chhin Sothy/AFP)

Confucius Institutes accepted in SEA and embraced by Cambodia, unlike in the West

China’s Confucius Institutes have been vilified in the West, but they have gained much traction in Cambodia. This is not surprising, given that Cambodia is one of China's closest allies in Southeast Asia. ISEAS visiting fellow Vannarith Chheang explains why.
Protesters hold placards as they take part in a demonstration against the military coup, in front of the Chinese embassy in Yangon on 21 February 2021. (Sai Aung Main/AFP)

Why Myanmar people believe there is Chinese involvement in Myanmar coup

While China has refuted rumours that it was involved in the Myanmar coup, the people of Myanmar are not convinced. Researcher Hein Khaing says instead of blaming the Myanmar people for being gullible and asking them to be more discerning about what they see and hear, the Chinese need to understand why negative rumours about China are so easily presumed true in Myanmar. Not only that, but the coup has also changed the Myanmar Chinese community's sentiments about their relationship with their ancestral land. 
Demonstrators protest against military coup in Yangon, Myanmar, 22 February 2021. (Stringer/Reuters)

Why China has everything to lose from Myanmar coup

Contrary to speculation that China may have abetted or has much to gain from the situation in Myanmar, Hong Kong academic Enze Han says that it is actually the party with the most to lose. Moreover, any playing up of a great power tussle between the US and China only hurts Myanmar in the long run.
An officer checks a container with COVID-19 vaccines from China's Sinovac Biotech Ltd., as they arrive at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in the first shipment to Indonesia, in Tangerang, near Jakarta, 6 December 2020. (Dhemas Reviyanto/Antara Foto via Reuters)

Survey: China the most influential and distrusted power in Southeast Asia

The State of Southeast Asia 2021 survey published by the ASEAN Studies Centre at ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute indicates that Southeast Asians’ trust in China continues to trend downward. China’s success in containing the pandemic domestically, and its "pandemic diplomacy” in the region have had little effect on Southeast Asians' trust deficit towards Beijing, as they are anxious over China’s ability to constrain their countries’ sovereignty and foreign policy choices. ISEAS academic Hoang Thi Ha notes that this trust deficit undermines China’s “discourse power”, and Beijing would do well to consider recalibrating its approach to the region.