China influence

People wearing face masks walk past the China Zun skyscraper at the central business district in Beijing, China, 15 January 2021. (Tingshu Wang/Reuters)

'Driving the blade inwards': Why China may join the CPTPP

China’s willingness to consider joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) is perhaps an admission that emphasising free trade but ignoring fair trade is no longer sustainable. Even sacred cows such as its state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and insistence on the WTO platform for multilateral trade negotiations may be up for discussion. On a practical level, the CPTPP may just be the external push it needs to force its SOEs to reform.
Members of Indonesian Trade Unions carry giant handcuffs during a protest against the government's labor reforms in a "job creation" bill in Jakarta, Indonesia, 10 November 2020. (Willy Kurniawan/REUTERS)

Indonesia: Why China-funded companies are targeted by the anti-Jokowi camp

Recently, a Chinese subsidiary nickel factory in Konawe, South Sulawesi, Indonesia, was crippled by fiery worker protests. This latest incident in a string of labour protests in Indonesia may seem to be about discontent among Indonesian workers at their treatment by China-funded companies. However, ISEAS academic Leo Suryadinata says that there may be more to the stoking of anti-Chinese sentiment than meets the eye.
In a photo taken on 20 November 2020, divisions of returning elite party members attend a meeting to pledge loyalty before the portraits of late North Korean leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, upon their arrival at Kumsusan palace in Pyongyang, following their deployment to rural provinces to aid in recovery efforts amid damage caused by a September typhoon. (Kim Won Jin/AFP)

To lead the world, Biden's US will need China's help with North Korea

Hong Kong-based commentator Zheng Hao notes that the Trump administration’s high-profiled meetings with North Korea established communication at the very least, even if long-term peace in the Korean peninsula is still out of reach. Will the Biden administration be able to do any better, with China’s help?
The Alibaba Group logo is seen during the company's 11.11 Singles' Day global shopping festival at their headquarters in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, China, 11 November 2020. (Aly Song/REUTERS)

Alibaba’s expansion into Malaysia: A double-edged sword?

Academic Tham Siew Yean notes that Alibaba’s latest foray into Malaysia will bring a raft of e-commerce opportunities to the country. But there are concerns about its pervasive presence in the country and the possible impact on competition.
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?
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 on 17 November in the Northern Arabian sea. (Indian Navy/AFP)

US Navy's 1st Fleet to sail the 'Western Pacific and the Eastern Indian Ocean'?

The US has raised the possibility of reactivating its 1st Fleet in the Indo Pacific area. ISEAS academic Ian Storey notes that a reactivated 1st Fleet would boost the US naval presence in Asia, and demands on America’s allies and security partners in this region. What are the points of consideration for Asian countries and what is the likelihood that the reactivation will happen?
A clown interacts with people at a main shopping area in Wuhan, Hubei province, China, 6 December 2020. (Aly Song/REUTERS)

China has entered the 'gilded cage' of RCEP and is considering the CPTPP. What's next?

With the recent signing of the RCEP and China’s comment that it will “favourably consider” joining the CPTPP, are prospects looking up for greater domestic reform and regional economic integration across the board, and will dreams of a free trade area of the Asia-Pacific have a higher chance of eventually taking shape? Japan-based academic Zhang Yun looks at the potential outlook.
A protester takes a moment while speaking to the crowd as they march through Hollywood during a demonstration over the death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis Police custody, in Los Angeles, California, June 2, 2020. - Anti-racism protests have put several US cities under curfew to suppress rioting, following the death of George Floyd in police custody. (Kyle Grillot/AFP)

Japanese academic: If US diplomacy lacks a strong base, how can it demonstrate true leadership?

Japanese academic Sahashi Ryo notes that with Biden taking office, the US needs to look at the changing needs of diplomacy and rebuild international relationships, and figure out how to negotiate its ties with China.
US President-elect Joe Biden speaks during a cabinet announcement event in Wilmington, Delaware, on 24 November 2020. (Chandan Khanna/AFP)

Can Biden’s US lead the world?

US President-elect Joe Biden has said that the US is back and ready to lead the world. Can he really turn things around? The US-China relationship, for one, is already in a serious state of distrust and acrimony. While the methods differ, says Hong Kong-based commentator Zheng Hao, the intended outcomes of the Biden administration’s China policy would likely be very similar to the previous administration’s. But before playing a global leading role of any kind, Biden will have to find a way to prevent his every step from being hindered by conservative Republicans in Congress.