A Mixue Ice Cream & Tea outlet in Johor Bahru. (Photo: Claudia Liao)

Mixue, ChaGee, Luckin: F&B brands boosting China's soft power in Southeast Asia?

As China tries to sell its soft power, one channel it is tapping into is its food and beverage industry, with brands like Mixue and Luckin Coffee moving into overseas markets. Alongside its tech exports like smartphones, can China convince others of its products and improve its image?
Japan Prime Minister Fumio Kishida shakes hands with Philippine President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr at Malacanang Palace in Manila, Philippines, on 3 November 2023. (Aaron Favila/Reuters)

Japanese academic: Necessary for Japan to support Philippines' security capabilities

Amid rising tensions in the South China Sea between the Philippines and China, Japan is looking to forge closer security relations with the Philippines. An envisaged reciprocal access agreement between the Philippines and Japan would be an important step towards that end and help to achieve maritime stability in East Asia.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida shakes hands with Philippine President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr after their joint statement at Malacanang Palace in Manila, Philippines, on 3 November 2023. (Aaron Favila/Reuters)

First island chain strategy: Japan-Philippines security relationship deepens

While Japanese PM Kishida’s recent visit to Manila points to the upward momentum of the Japan-Philippines Strategic Partnership, it will also be a litmus test of Japan’s strategic goals in the rest of Southeast Asia.
Cartoon: Heng Kim Song

ThinkCartoon (2 November)

Heng Kim Song has been the freelance editorial cartoonist

Members of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) march outside the Great Hall of the People on 18 October 2023. (Qilai Shen/Bloomberg)

Which Chinese military leader will lead the Xiangshan Forum?

The Xiangshan Forum is scheduled to open at the end of this week in Beijing, after a three-year hiatus due to the pandemic, and in that time several complex geopolitical and security issues have cropped up that are likely to be discussed. Furthermore, the sudden change in China’s military leadership and continued freezing of China-US military interactions adds another layer worth observing. Lianhe Zaobao correspondent Yang Danxu tells us more.
Philippines and US soldiers salute in front of their national flags while their national anthems are played during the opening ceremony of the 'Balikatan' joint military exercise at the military headquarters in Quezon City, suburban Manila on 11 April 2023. (Ted Aljibe/AFP)

US new military bases: China-Philippine relations on downward spiral?

China takes a dim view of Manila’s decision to grant the US access to four military bases. While the two allies have framed the arrangement as bolstering deterrence vis-à-vis China, such a move is unlikely to deter Beijing.
A sailor stands on the deck of the USS America (LHA-6) amphibious assault ship docked at a port in Manila, Philippines, 21 March 2023. (Adrian Portugal/Reuters)

US and China fight for influence in strategic provinces of the Philippines

The locus of superpower rivalry in the Indo-Pacific has gone down to the subnational level. The US and China are engaged in a power competition for influence within local governments in the Philippines, not least in the Cagayan area.
Philippines and US officers link arms during the opening ceremony of US-Philippines Arm-to-Army exercise at Fort Magsaysay, in Nueva Ecija province, north of Manila on 13 March 2023. (Ted Aljibe/AFP)

Is Philippine President Marcos Jr swinging too far back to the US?

The Marcos Jr administration’s defence cooperation policy that hews closer to the US is facing domestic criticism, even from his sister. China is also growing increasingly uncomfortable with recent moves between the Philippines and the US, and posturing that suggests that the Philippines could be enlisted to part of the "China containment club".
Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. (left) and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida (right) conclude their joint press remarks after their talks at prime minister's official residence in Tokyo, Japan, 9 February 2023. Kimimasa Mayama/Pool via Reuters)

The US-Japan-Philippines triad: Part of the US's trilateral security networks around China

Philippine academic Renato Cruz De Castro discusses the prospect of a trilateral Japan-US-Philippines defence pact and the US's building of informal trilateral networks in the Asia Pacific to safeguard its interests against China. However, he notes that there are practical issues to be resolved before a formal agreement can materialise.