Southeast Asia

Russian President Vladimir Putin takes part in a video conference call with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, 28 June 2021. (Alexei Nikolsky/Kremlin via Reuters)

Russia and China in Southeast Asia: Pragmatic cooperation against US primacy

Russia-China relations are at a historic high due to mutual concerns over US primacy, economic synergies and strong interpersonal ties between their national leaders. However, despite deepening military cooperation and closer diplomatic coordination, a formal alliance between Russia and China is not likely as this would constrain their strategic autonomy and undercut key foreign policy narratives. The South China Sea dispute is the most complex issue and a potential fault line in Russia-China relations in Southeast Asia. While Moscow has been broadly supportive of China’s position, Beijing’s jurisdictional claims threaten Russia’s lucrative energy interests in Southeast Asia.
A woman receives the Sinovac Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine in Denpasar, Indonesia's Bali island on 2 September 2021. (Sonny Tumbelaka/AFP)

Has China done well in its vaccine diplomacy in Southeast Asia?

China has supplied 190 million doses of its homegrown vaccines to Southeast Asia. However, although there has been sporadic support, perceptions of Chinese vaccines among the public in the region largely trend negatively, suggesting a non-linear relationship between China’s vaccine diplomacy and its soft power in the region. ISEAS researchers Khairulanwar Zaini and Hoang Thi Ha discuss the complex factors affecting vaccine hesitancy in six Southeast Asian countries — Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
US Vice President Kamala Harris (second from left) prepares to depart Vietnam at Noi Bai International Airport, following her first official visit to Asia, in Hanoi on 26 August 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/AFP)

US academic: Consequences if Southeast Asia fails to align with US on China policy

The Biden administration has sought to re-engage with Southeast Asia, but there are limits to how much traction it can get in the region. And if Southeast Asian nations continue to not align with the US on countering the challenge posed by China, it is highly likely that Washington will shift its focus to like-minded actors who will coordinate with it.
A nurse shows vials of the Sputnik V vaccine, 19 August 2021. (Orlando Sierra/AFP)

Vaccine diplomacy in Southeast Asia: Russia trails far behind China and the US

For a country that was first off the blocks, Russia has a long way to go if it wants to catch up with China and the US in the game of vaccine diplomacy.
US Vice President Kamala Harris Harris (left) and Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong hold a joint news conference in Singapore on 23 August 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/AFP)

China-US competition: Why small countries will not choose sides

The recent visit by US Vice President Kamala Harris to Singapore and Vietnam has brought the spotlight on Asia. Is Asia and the Indo-Pacific really a priority for the US, or is that just lip service? And as Singapore’s former ambassador to the US Chan Heng Chee asked: what does the US expect from the region? Zaobao associate editor Han Yong Hong reflects on small countries' limited options amid great power competition.
This file photo taken on 31 May 2021 shows an employee of the semiconductor manufacturer Bosch working in a clean room during the preparations for the series production of semiconductor chips on innovative 300-millimetre wafers in Dresden, Germany. (Jens Schlueter/AFP)

Why no country can win the chip war

Though the Covid-19 pandemic has had an impact on many industries, annual global semiconductor sales still increased by 10.8% in 2020 to reach US$464 billion. The current global semiconductor supply chain is highly internationalised. While it is dominated by a small number of countries and regions, none of them has full control over every segment in the supply chain and geopolitics can be a risk factor. While the US has imposed sanctions and trade restrictions on China to hinder its development in chip making, academic James Pang says that given the nature of the industry, the current status quo will be maintained for some time.
US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin reviewing a Guard of Honour at Singapore's Ministry of Defence (MINDEF), 27 July 2021. (Ministry of Defence Singapore)

A tall order: US policy effort in SEA amid rising Chinese influence

The Biden administration has reinvigorated its approach towards Southeast Asia. This, however, will be limited by important US priorities and Southeast Asian reluctance to irk Beijing.
This picture taken and released by the Vietnam News Agency on 29 July 2021 shows US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin (centre) inspecting a guard of honour along with Vietnam's Defence Minister Phan Van Giang (left) during a welcoming ceremony in Hanoi. (STR/Vietnam News Agency/AFP)

US defence chief Lloyd Austin in Southeast Asia: Did the US strike the right notes?

Lloyd Austin’s visit to three Southeast Asian countries in July 2021 was aimed at reaffirming America’s commitment to regional alliances and partnerships amid concerns of US neglect of the region in the first six months of the Biden administration. The messages delivered during his trip, particularly in his Fullerton Lecture in Singapore, outlined the broad contours of the Biden administration’s Southeast Asia policy that goes beyond the dynamics of US-China strategic rivalry and seeks to provide a more holistic and positive agenda of US engagement with the region.
Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin (left) greets Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff General Cirilito Sobejana (right) as Philippines Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana (centre) looks on at Camp Aguinaldo military in Manila on 30 July 2021. (Rolex Dela Pena/AFP)

US and Southeast Asia need to cultivate common interests and understanding

Compared to China, the Biden administration has been slow off the blocks in the game of winning friends and influencing people in Southeast Asia. It has its work cut out for it.