ASEAN-China

Lu Kang, former foreign ministry spokesperson who was also director-general of the ministry’s information department, slated to become next Chinese ambassador to Indonesia. (Internet)

Prospective Chinese ambassador to Indonesia Lu Kang will have sights on engaging ASEAN

Former foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang is slated to be the next Chinese ambassador to Indonesia. Amid US-China tensions, a post in Indonesia presents opportunities and challenges both in terms of bilateral relations and in engaging ASEAN. Known to be a steady hand, if Lu can chalk up notable achievements during his tenure, he may move on to higher roles, just like other high-flying spokesmen of the ministry.
Divers swim above a bed of dead corals off Malaysia's Tioman island in the South China Sea, 4 May 2008. (David Loh/File Photo/Reuters)

Marine science collaborations can help defuse tensions in the South China Sea

With environmental security shaping a new South China Sea conversation about ecological challenges, science cooperation represents a litmus test to link the impact of environmental change to both national and international security, and can offer a means to defuse tensions, says James Borton. His new book, Dispatches from the South China Sea: Navigating to Common Ground, will be released soon.
A television screen shows a news programme about a virtual meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Joe Biden at a restaurant in Beijing on 16 November 2021. (Jade GaoAFP)

US-China relations: Taiwan could be the most dangerous trigger point

ISEAS academic William Choong notes that amid intense China-US competition in domains such as trade, technology, security and values, there is much virtue for smaller states, particularly those in Southeast Asia, in upholding high principles and expressing a desire for a rules-based regional order. These elements, however, are premised on continued stability in Sino-US relations, which is not guaranteed, particularly given the increasingly entrenched positions of China and the US on the Taiwan issue.
The ASEAN-China summit commemorating 30 years of dialogue relations was held on 22 November 2021. (Prime Minister's Office, Singapore)

ASEAN-China relations stay robust despite Myanmar's absence from virtual summit

The recent virtual summit commemorating 30 years of ASEAN-China dialogue relations was held without a representative from Myanmar, the second time in a month that Myanmar was absent from the ASEAN family. The Myanmar issue is likely to pull ASEAN on many sides in the days to come, but the fact that the summit went on and concluded with some deliverables speaks for the strength of ASEAN-China relations.
Paramilitary police officers keep watch as people climb the Great Wall of China in Beijing, China, 1 October 2021. (Thomas Peter/Reuters)

Wang Gungwu: China, ASEAN and the new Maritime Silk Road

Professor Wang Gungwu was a keynote speaker at the webinar titled “The New Maritime Silk Road: China and ASEAN” organised by the Academy of Professors Malaysia. He reminds us that a sense of region was never a given for Southeast Asia; trade tied different peoples from land and sea together but it was really the former imperial masters and the US who made the region “real”. Western powers have remained interested in Southeast Asia through the years, as they had created the Southeast Asia concept and even ASEAN. On the other hand, China was never very much interested in the seas or countries to its south; this was until it realised during the Cold War that Southeast Asia and ASEAN had agency and could help China balance its needs in the maritime sphere amid the US's persistent dominance. The Belt and Road Initiative reflects China’s worldview and the way it is maintaining its global networks to survive and thrive in a new era. This is an edited transcript of Professor Wang’s speech.
This file combination of pictures created on 8 June 2021, shows US President Joe Biden (left) and Chinese President Xi Jinping. (Mandel Ngan and Anthony Wallace/AFP)

US academic: Since Southeast Asia is undecided, the US will work with willing partners

US President Joe Biden has largely maintained his predecessor's tough approach to China in terms of containment and competition. This includes gathering allies in groupings such as the Quad and AUKUS, and being vocal about China's moves in the South China Sea, Taiwan and other areas such as climate change and trade. However, this strident approach may not be the most effective in gaining support from ASEAN, which is wary of possibly antagonising China. This gives China the advantage, at least in the Southeast Asian region, and the US may in turn rely more heavily on the Quad powers.
US President Joe Biden participates virtually during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meeting in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, DC, US, on 26 October 2021. Biden plans to provide Southeast Asia with more than $100 million in funding to fight the pandemic and tackle the climate crisis as his administration seeks to bolster ties with a region seeking to balance its growing economic reliance on China. (Tom Brenner/Bloomberg)

The EU and ASEAN should join hands in cajoling China and the US towards peace

The EU and ASEAN are supporters of a rules-based global system, says Joergen Oerstroem Moeller. As such, they can use their collective weight to persuade Washington and Beijing to focus less on their bilateral tensions and more on solving contemporary problems.
Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin (left) greets Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff General Cirilito Sobejana (right) as Philippines Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana (centre) looks on at Camp Aguinaldo military in Manila on 30 July 2021. (Rolex Dela Pena/AFP)

US and Southeast Asia need to cultivate common interests and understanding

Compared to China, the Biden administration has been slow off the blocks in the game of winning friends and influencing people in Southeast Asia. It has its work cut out for it.
People watch the annual Fourth of July parade on 4 July 2021 in Saugerties, New York. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP)

SEA nations may need to pick a side as US-China rivalry intensifies

There is bipartisan support under the Biden administration to compete with and confront China, reflecting the American desire to maintain its dominant position in the international system. However, the US’s ability to act as a reliable security partner is heavily constrained by its domestic political paralysis caused by ideological divisions as well as social and economic upheavals. And while Southeast Asian countries want the US to remain militarily and economically engaged in the region to act as a counterweight to China, they do not want to take sides between the two superpowers. Canadian academic Shaun Narine believes this may be an increasingly difficult balance as US-China rivalry intensifies.