Indonesia

This handout photo taken and released on 20 October 2020 by the Indonesian Presidential Palace shows Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga (R) and Indonesian President Joko Widodo (L) walking during a welcoming ceremony at the presidensial palace in Bogor on the outskirts of Jakarta. (Handout/Indonesian Presidential Palace/AFP)

Japan's Suga failed to win Jakarta's support for security cooperation in the Indo-Pacific

Prime Minister Suga’s first overseas trip shows that an “independent and active” Indonesia is not an easy partner for Japan’s Free and Open Indo-Pacific strategy.
Prabowo Subianto looks on before taking his oath as appointed Defense Minister during the inauguration at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta, Indonesia, 23 October 2019. (Willy Kurniawan/REUTERS)

After a 20-year ban, why was Indonesia's Prabowo invited to the US?

Indonesian Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto's visit to Washington DC has raised many eyebrows and questions, says Leo Suryadinata. Is the US worried about Indonesia leaning too much towards China?
PKI supporters rallying during the 1955 general-election campaign. (Wikimedia)

The ghost of the Communist Party of Indonesia still haunts

A failed military coup on 30 September 1965 which led to the massacre of more than a million Partai Komunis Indonesia (PKI) members and communist sympathisers continues to plague Indonesian politics. People want to know who was the real instigator of the coup: the PKI, the left-wing military, Sukarno, Suharto, or the CIA in the US are all possibilities. A 2019 book says that according to declassified documents from the Chinese Communist Party Central Archives, a central figure in the coup was in Beijing on 5 August 1965, and discussed Indonesia’s situation with Mao Zedong and other Chinese Communist Party leaders. Leo Suryadinata pieces together the events in explaining how this catastrophe continues to impact Indonesia.
Soldiers of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Marine Corps are seen in training in China, 21 January 2016. (Stringer/REUTERS)

Will China establish military bases in Southeast Asia?

The US Department of Defence has asserted that Beijing has “likely considered” logistics and basing infrastructure in five Southeast Asian countries. It is worth noting that such arrangements are predicated on a host nation’s inclination to support such a presence. At the moment, such willingness appears to be in short supply, except in the case of Cambodia.
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.
A stretch of the 400-kilometre long China-Laos railway in Vientiane, 29 July 2020. (Xinhua)

China's Belt and Road Initiative faces huge challenges in Southeast Asia

Beijing has pledged financing, materials, technology and manpower to build railroads, hydropower stations and other infrastructure projects in Southeast Asian countries under the BRI. But China continues to face enormous challenges getting projects off the ground in countries that need the investment most. US academic Murray Hiebert examines why.
A vendor sells newspapers along a highway in Jakarta, Indonesia, 10 June 2020. (Ajeng Dinar Ulfiana/REUTERS)

Rising China: Indonesia's Chinese-language newspapers avoid taking sides

All six Chinese-language newspapers in Indonesia support closer economic co-operation with Beijing, and all are pro-Beijing when reporting on Taiwan and Hong Kong issues, except for one. Chinese-language newspapers also face other issues such as insufficient readership and advertisement revenue, and a dearth of journalists. ISEAS academic Leo Suryadinata takes a closer look at the papers' predicaments with a rising China on one hand, and a diminishing pool of local readers on the other.
The skyline of Singapore's central business district, 27 May 2016. (Edgar Su/REUTERS)

Can small states continue to avoid choosing between China and the US?

With the jostling between China and the US, one country that seems to have found a balance between these two powers is Singapore. In fact, other ASEAN countries are also seeking not to take sides, which appears to be the most prudent strategy. However, ISEAS academic William Choong thinks that the choice of not making a choice may not be feasible in the near future.
A crew member on the RSS Vigour acting as the lookout at the bridge as the team investigates a potential contact of interest. (MINDEF)

Hanging tough together: ASEAN countries' survival strategy amid Sino-US rivalry

Rising Sino-US rivalry and a rapidly changing geopolitical environment means that smaller states in the Asia-Pacific are increasingly compelled to “choose sides” between the two major powers. They are, however, not short of options.