ISEAS academic Leo Suryadinata looks at the Chinese ice cream brand Mixue and the difficulty it faces in getting a halal certificate in Indonesia. What does it say about the power struggle between different interest groups and Indonesia’s processes?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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?
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?
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.
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?