Muslim world

Indonesian President Joko Widodo, wearing traditional Bangka Belitung outfit, greets parliament members after delivering his annual State of the Nation Address ahead of the country's Independence Day, at the parliament building in Jakarta, Indonesia, 16 August 2022. (Tatan Syuflana/Reuters)

Will Indonesia establish a University of Confucianism?

The Joko Widodo administration recently announced plans to establish the International State University of Confucianism in Bangka Belitung province. This plan has however been strongly opposed by the local Aliansi Ulama Islam (Islamic Ulama Alliance, or AUI). The success of the plan to establish the university is probably contingent on whether Joko Widodo remains in power. Should a conservative Muslim politician be elected as the next president, it is unlikely that this university will be built.
A newspaper with a cover picture of Mahsa Amini, a woman who died after being arrested by Iranian morality police is seen in Tehran, Iran, 18 September 2022. (Majid Asgaripour/West Asia News Agency via Reuters)

Can China stay silent about mass protests in Iran?

Even as the protests in Iran continue after more than a month with no sign of abating, all efforts seem futile as external support is not forthcoming. There looks to be little hope of permanent change as the current regime remains firmly in control. Meanwhile, as China expands its global influence, can it stay silent in dealing with the internal affairs of Iran and other countries? Or remove reports of protests from their state media?
Students gather as schools transition to in-classroom teaching amid the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic in Jakarta on 3 January 2022. (Adek Berry/AFP)

China’s Islamic diplomacy in Indonesia is seeing results

China’s efforts at Islamic diplomacy — including providing scholarships for Indonesian students and inviting leaders of Islamic organisations to visit China — seem to be paying off, at least in producing young academics like Novi Basuki, who has been defending China’s actions in Xinjiang. NTU academic Leo Suryadinata tells us more.
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.
Ethnic Uighur demonstrators take part in a protest against China, in Istanbul, Turkey, 1 October 2021. (Dilara Senkaya/Reuters)

The Xinjiang problem: Can Washington be the defender of all?

Amid revived calls for countries to boycott the Winter Olympics in Beijing over Xinjiang, academic Peter Chang reflects that the Xinjiang issue has drawn the attention of the West, Muslim populations and others around the world. But the issue, while important, has been further politicised in the wider US-China contest. Moral grandstanding by the West when confronting China does not help the situation either. How much collateral damage will there be in this strategic game?
Caution tape is seen near the Chinese embassy as activists hold a demonstration calling on Chinese President Xi Jinping to "allow safe passage to North Koreans detained in China" in Washington, DC on 24 September 2021. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP)

The war on terrorism has ended. Can the US win the next battle of great power competition?

Twenty years after the historic 9/11 attacks on the US, the threat of terrorism has largely been contained and a new era of great power competition has returned. ISEAS researcher Daljit Singh notes that in the past century, the US has been adamant about not letting any single power dominate East Asia, and will most probably continue to do so. What will this new era be like when the US's competitor is a rising China? And what can Southeast Asian states do about it?
Afghans walk along fences as they arrive in Pakistan through the Pakistan-Afghanistan border crossing point in Chaman on 24 August 2021 following Taliban's military takeover of Afghanistan. (AFP)

Afghanistan in the calculations of India, Pakistan and China: Is there common ground among rivals and allies?

A triumphant Taliban presents unique and unprecedented challenges for Afghanistan’s neighbours. As the international spotlight continues to shine on the Taliban, it remains difficult to discern between reality and ruse in the Taliban’s rhetoric. The future of Afghanistan appears uncertain, and most countries remain watchful. India has refrained from advancing a clear diplomatic position while China and Pakistan have shown a cautious willingness to engage with the Taliban. While all three countries view Afghanistan with diverging agendas, a stable, inclusive Afghanistan remains in their mutual interest.
A handout picture made available by the Iranian Red Crescent on 19 August 2021, shows a young Afghan refugee at the Iran-Afghanistan border between Afghanistan and the southeastern Iranian Sistan and Baluchestan province, as people fleeing AFghanistan try to enter the Islamic republic following the takeover of their country by the Taliban earlier this week. (Mohammad Javadzadeh/Iranian Red Crescent/AFP)

What China wants to see under a Taliban-led Afghanistan

Chinese academic Fan Hongda says that following the US troop pullout of Afghanistan, the Taliban have much to do to convince the international community that they can lead the country, and that they can rebuild Afghanistan. Will Taliban rule be any different this time round as compared to 20 years ago? How would China react to the new ruling power in Afghanistan?
People wearing face masks walk past a mural displaying Iran's national flag in Tehran, Iran on 17 June 2021. (Atta Kenare/AFP)

Chinese academic: Can China challenge the US’s standing in the Middle East?

Although China has made inroads into the Middle East as a major investor and economic partner, some are suspicious of its intentions in being all things to all countries in this fractious region. Thus, even if there is much hype about its ability to take over the US’s role in the region, China should remember that it still lacks the power and wherewithal to exert a major influence.