Southeast Asia

A vendor grills bananas across buildings under construction in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on 6 January 2021. (Tang Chhin Sothy/AFP)

No more easy money: Will BRI projects in Southeast Asia slow and stall?

A new study suggests that official Chinese lending has dropped in recent years. This stems from lessons learnt after a decade of mistakes in overseas lending. How would this affect Belt and Road Initiative projects in Southeast Asia?
This handout photo taken and released by the Indian Navy on 17 November 2020 shows ships taking part in the second phase of the Malabar naval exercise in the Arabian sea. India, Australia, Japan and the United States started the second phase of a strategic navy drill in the Northern Arabian sea. (Indian Navy/AFP)

Indo-Pacific: The central theatre of 21st century great power struggle

ISEAS academic Daljit Singh notes that the new great power contest has spilled over into the Indian Ocean, and the term “Indo-Pacific” will better reflect the strategic geography of this central theatre of the 21st century great power struggle.
This picture taken on 28 October 2020 shows a customer (right) scanning a QR payment code (centre in green) to pay at a restaurant in Beijing, China. (Nicolas Asfouri/AFP)

China will continue to dominate the e-commerce landscape in 2021

China will continue to flex its e-commerce muscles in 2021, predicts Associate Professor Chu Junhong from the NUS Business School. Expect a strong dose of cross-border e-commerce, live-streaming e-commerce, and more eye-catching short videos that promise great returns on “retailtainment”.
President-elect Joe Biden is briefed by expert members of his national security and foreign policy agency review teams at the Queen Theater on 28 December 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware. (Mark Makela/AFP)

Japanese academic: Biden must not underestimate China's maritime ambitions

With US President-elect Joe Biden all but ready to be installed in the White House in January, Japanese academic Masafumi Iida explores how the new administration might shape the US's relations with East Asia, especially in terms of the US's military presence in the Indo-Pacific region. He argues that it is necessary for the US to learn from the failures of the Obama administration in underestimating the prowess and ambitions of China.
This photograph taken on 8 December 2020 shows a vendor steering her boat while looking for customers at the Damnoen Saduak floating market, nearly deserted with few tourists due to ongoing Covid-19 coronavirus travel restrictions, some 100km southwest of Bangkok. (Mladen Antonov/AFP)

What Southeast Asia wants from the impending Biden presidency

ISEAS academics Malcolm Cook and Ian Storey note that Southeast Asia would welcome a Biden administration policy towards Asia that is less confrontational and unilateralist, and firmer and more action-oriented. The region's governments prefer the new US administration to adopt a less confrontational stance towards China and lower US-China tensions. But while they welcome increased US economic and security engagement with the region, they are less enthusiastic about Biden’s emphasis on human rights and democracy.
The Alibaba Group logo is seen during the company's 11.11 Singles' Day global shopping festival at their headquarters in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, China, 11 November 2020. (Aly Song/REUTERS)

Alibaba’s expansion into Malaysia: A double-edged sword?

Academic Tham Siew Yean notes that Alibaba’s latest foray into Malaysia will bring a raft of e-commerce opportunities to the country. But there are concerns about its pervasive presence in the country and the possible impact on competition.
A tree on a pickup truck before the Lights of Lugoff Christmas Parade on 12 December 2020 in Lugoff, South Carolina. (Sean Rayford/AFP)

Even as US-China competition intensifies, the world can look forward to a few good things

Post Covid-19, while it seems that a world economy with two centres of dynamism — one America, the other China — is setting in, and “decoupling” and “deglobalisation” are becoming catchwords of the new era, academic Zha Daojiong notes that there are a few bright spots amid the gloom. Moreover, the new normal in China-US relations may be more stable and less worrying for Southeast Asia than commonly thought.
This handout photo taken and released by the Indian Navy on 17 November 2020 shows ships taking part in the second phase of the Malabar naval exercise in the Arabian sea. India, Australia, Japan and the United States started the second phase of a strategic navy drill on 17 November in the Northern Arabian sea. (Indian Navy/AFP)

US Navy's 1st Fleet to sail the 'Western Pacific and the Eastern Indian Ocean'?

The US has raised the possibility of reactivating its 1st Fleet in the Indo Pacific area. ISEAS academic Ian Storey notes that a reactivated 1st Fleet would boost the US naval presence in Asia, and demands on America’s allies and security partners in this region. What are the points of consideration for Asian countries and what is the likelihood that the reactivation will happen?
Military personnel walk past a banner promoting the ASEAN summit in Hanoi, Vietnam, 11 November 2020. (Kham/Reuters)

Former Chinese Vice-Minister He Yafei: Singapore and ASEAN have important roles to play in a multipolar world

Professor He Yafei, a former vice-minister at the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, delivered the keynote address at the Lianhe Zaobao Singapore-China Forum on 3 December. He touched on the imperatives of a new multipolar world, highlighting that being economically close to China, but relying on the US for security protection, is not going to work for the Southeast Asian region. He also spoke about Singapore and China working together bilaterally, for instance in terms of China’s new dual circulation economy, as well in the regional and international arena. Below is the edited transcript of his speech and QnA.