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Yemenis protest against the United Arab Emirates and the Southern Transitional Council (STC) in the country's city of Taez on 24 June 2020, after the STC's southern separatists seized control of the strategic island of Socotra. (Ahmad Al-Basha/AFP)

Shifting alliances in the Middle East: Countering the China threat with an Indian Ocean triangle

With an agreement signed recently between Israel and the UAE to normalise relations, Middle East experts detect a shift in focus in the Middle East and North Africa region. Issues in the future will revolve around the divide between the Arabs, Israelis and Americans on one side and Iran on the other. Enter China, who, with its recent upgrade in relations with Iran, as well as interests in the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Horn of Africa and the Indian Ocean, could up the ante in the region against the backdrop of US-China tensions.
A woman looks out to the Indian Ocean at Meulaboh beach in Aceh on 12 July 2020. (Chaideer Mahyuddin/AFP)

India in the Indo-Pacific: Reining in China in the new theatre of great power rivalry

In recent times, the Indo-Pacific has evolved from being a geographical concept to a political and strategic construct that means different things to different countries. With Covid-19 turning the international tide against China, proponents of ensuring a “free and open Indo-Pacific” have found more incentive to rally together. Among them, dominant stakeholders such as India can play a bigger role to balance the perceived threat.
A neon sign of the American flag and neon lights at One Times Square in New York, 31 July 2020. (Timothy A. Clary/AFP)

No country can be the world's policeman: Debt-ridden US needs to focus on itself

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.
Two domestically-made armoured vehicles launch smoke grenades during the annual Han Kuang military drills in Taichung on 16 July 2020. - The military drills aimed to test how the armed forces would repel an invasion from China, which has vowed to bring Taiwan back into the fold — by force if necessary. (Sam Yeh/AFP)

Chinese academic: A ‘reunification by force’ would be Taiwan's last

Chinese academic Shen Jinhao says that when it comes to Taiwan, the mainland will not start a fight it is not ready to finish. If it launches a “reunification by force”, Taiwan would be subdued in one fell swoop, even before the US has a chance to make a meaningful intervention.
A woman walks along along an alleyway decorated with Vietnamese national flags in Hanoi, 1 September 2020. (Nhac Nguyen/AFP)

Facing frenemy China, Vietnam shall edge closer to America

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.
A woman uses her mobile phone to take pictures at the Forbidden City in Beijing on 1 September 2020. (Wang Zhao/AFP)

China is waiting for the American bundle of nerves to calm down 

Sun Peisong believes that China actually understands the plot and knows why it is being vilified in American politics. Its strategy is to tough it out, particularly during the US elections season, and wait for the US to come back to the table.
This file photo taken on April 21, 2017 shows an aerial shot of a reef in the disputed Spratly islands. (Ted Aljibe/AFP)

SEA states have few options to mitigate escalating South China Sea tensions

Tensions in the South China Sea have surged since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. China has pressed its jurisdictional claims prompting the US to increase its criticism of Beijing’s actions and its military presence in the South China Sea. In response to China’s activities, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam have rejected Beijing’s nine-dash line claims and invoked international law and the 2016 Arbitral Tribunal ruling in support of their maritime sovereign rights. ISEAS academic Ian Storey takes stock of the situation and gives a broad sweep of what we can expect in the next 18 months.
Soldiers of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Marine Corps are seen in training in Zhanjiang, Guangdong province, China, 20 July 2017. (Stringer/File Photo/Reuters)

Chinese academic: Why the PLA conducts simultaneous exercises across different territorial waters

The PLA must guard against the US trying to keep it busy by creating several battlegrounds at the same time, says military affairs commentator Song Zhongping. To be best prepared, the PLA should view the threats from the Taiwan Strait and South China Sea in toto and plan accordingly. This will help them to have more options at their disposal and to de-escalate conflicts as they arise.
Infantrymen assigned to a combined arms brigade under the PLA 78th Group Army get well-prepared in positions during a tactical training exercise in early August, 2020. (eng.chinamil.com.cn/Feng Cheng)

The PLA’s game of deterrence in the Taiwan Strait

Zaobao correspondent Yu Zeyuan notes the seeming aggressiveness of the PLA’s large-scale military exercises in the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait, but says that the intention is in fact to prevent combat rather than to initiate it.