ASEAN-China

China paramount leader Deng Xiaoping (left) is seen shaking hands with Singapore founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew when Deng first visited Singapore, November 1978. (Ministry of Information and the Arts)

Reflections by George Yeo: Celebrating 30 years of diplomatic relations between Singapore and China

Singapore's former Foreign Minister George Yeo looks back at the years of engagement between Singapore and China, including the period before the two countries established formal diplomatic ties. He says that while Singapore’s “Chinese-ness” had some part to play in building strong ties over the years, it is paramount that this be distinguished from Singapore’s status as an independent, sovereign, multiracial country. As China continues to rise and US-China tensions continue to fester, ASEAN and Singapore would need to be watchful of issues that could derail relations with China. Notwithstanding, there is much room for cooperation that the region can be sanguine about.
A street vendor pushes her cart in the rain in Hanoi, 15 October 2020. (Nhac Nguyen/AFP)

How should Southeast Asian countries respond to an upsurge in Chinese investment

In this geostrategic climate, Southeast Asian countries should welcome rather than reject investments from China for their own developmental needs. Welcoming Chinese investment will also likely spur competing investments from the West and Japan.
A news report on Chinese President Xi Jinping's speech in the city of Shenzhen is shown on a public screen in Hong Kong, China, on 14 October 2020. (Roy Liu/Bloomberg)

Quad: Containing China should not be the raison d’être for any grouping

When asked in a recent interview to comment on the joint push for a "free and open Indo-Pacific" and whether it was realistic to formalise such an institution, former US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said he would like a coalition in the Asia-Pacific and the Indo-Pacific but not a coalition against something. His view is markedly different from that of many Trump officials, and is similar to that of Japan and many countries in Southeast Asia.
People wearing facemasks as a preventive measure against the Covid-19 coronavirus crowd in a market area in the old quarters of New Delhi on 11 October 2020. (Photo by Sajjad HUSSAIN / AFP)

China has a long-term strategy in Southeast Asia. But what about India?

China is taking action to deepen economic engagement with Southeast Asia. India, despite Prime Minister Modi’s Act East rhetoric, is not.
US President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden participate in their first 2020 presidential campaign debate held on the campus of the Cleveland Clinic at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, US, 29 September 2020. (Brian Snyder/REUTERS)

Trump vs Biden: Who makes a better choice for Southeast Asia

US President Donald Trump did not meet a single leader from Southeast Asia since November last year. Despite his administration's seemingly disengaged approach, US relations with key Southeast Asian states including Vietnam and Thailand have improved. ISEAS academics Ian Storey and Malcolm Cook look at the Trump administration's engagement data with Southeast Asian countries over the past year, the party platforms of both the Republicans and the Democrats, as well as recent developments in the region, as they give their take on the possible regional geopolitical environment after the presidential election.
Motorcyclists wearing protective masks sit in traffic in Hanoi, Vietnam, 18 September 2020. (Linh Pham/Bloomberg)

China’s Southeast Asian charm offensive: Is it working?

China has embarked on another round of “charm offensive” in Southeast Asia. In recent weeks, senior Chinese officials have stepped up their visits to Southeast Asia amid worsening US-China relations. It is clear that Beijing is trying to prevent Southeast Asia from veering too close to the US. However, China’s latest overtures have had mixed results — while Southeast Asia value diversification in their external relations, they are increasingly concerned with China’s actions in the South China Sea.
The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis transits the South China Sea at sunset, 25 February 2019. (US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Ryan D. McLearnon/Handout via REUTERS)

Apart from ASEAN and China, international community and law are part of South China Sea discourse

With Vietnam at the helm of ASEAN this year, the grouping has wielded the aegis of international law to ensure that international and regional concerns about the South China Sea are respected in Code of Conduct negotiations. ISEAS academic Hoang Thi Ha says that while China prefers to settle SCS issues between itself and ASEAN member states, this is not what ASEAN has in mind.
Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (left, with mic) and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe had a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the 2019 ASEAN summit. (SPH)

Post-Abe: Japan-ASEAN partnership crucial in navigating great power rivalry

With Shinzō Abe's imminent departure from office, Japanese academic Mie Oba looks back at Japan-ASEAN diplomacy under his charge, and at the expansion of defence cooperation between Japan and certain Southeast Asian countries. She says Japanese partnership with ASEAN has become more important, as Japan and ASEAN continue to navigate the escalating rivalry between China and the US in the Indo-Pacific region.
A South Korean soldier stands at a checkpoint on the Tongil bridge, the road leading to North Korea's Kaesong joint industrial complex, in the border city of Paju on 24 June 2020. (Jung Yeon-je/AFP)

When giants fight, even the wisest Southeast Asian leaders are left helpless

Hawaii-based academic Denny Roy notes the growing tension between North and South Korea, as well as US relations with China and the rest of the world, and explores how these might affect the situation in Southeast Asia.