Southeast Asia

In this file photo tourists wearing facemasks walk on the reopened Liberty Island in front of the Statue of Liberty on 20 July 2020 in New York City. (Johannes Eisele/AFP)

Setting the rules: 'Non-negotiables' in a US-Southeast Asia relationship

Since 2016, China has presented itself as a strategic competitor to the US. In turn, the Trump administration has been accused of incoherence in its policies toward China and its approach to the Indo-Pacific has led to concerns in regional states. Whether Trump or Biden wins in November, Washington needs to recognise some non-negotiables with regards to Southeast Asia: the avoidance of presenting binary choices for regional states to make amid Sino-US rivalry; the need for a looser cooperative approach in pushing back China’s assertiveness, particularly in the South China Sea; and the need to build regional connectivity networks and infrastructure.  
Prabowo Subianto looks on before taking his oath as appointed Defense Minister during the inauguration at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta, Indonesia, 23 October 2019. (Willy Kurniawan/REUTERS)

After a 20-year ban, why was Indonesia's Prabowo invited to the US?

Indonesian Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto's visit to Washington DC has raised many eyebrows and questions, says Leo Suryadinata. Is the US worried about Indonesia leaning too much towards China?
A street vendor pushes her cart in the rain in Hanoi, 15 October 2020. (Nhac Nguyen/AFP)

How should Southeast Asian countries respond to an upsurge in Chinese investment

In this geostrategic climate, Southeast Asian countries should welcome rather than reject investments from China for their own developmental needs. Welcoming Chinese investment will also likely spur competing investments from the West and Japan.
PKI supporters rallying during the 1955 general-election campaign. (Wikimedia)

The ghost of the Communist Party of Indonesia still haunts

A failed military coup on 30 September 1965 which led to the massacre of more than a million Partai Komunis Indonesia (PKI) members and communist sympathisers continues to plague Indonesian politics. People want to know who was the real instigator of the coup: the PKI, the left-wing military, Sukarno, Suharto, or the CIA in the US are all possibilities. A 2019 book says that according to declassified documents from the Chinese Communist Party Central Archives, a central figure in the coup was in Beijing on 5 August 1965, and discussed Indonesia’s situation with Mao Zedong and other Chinese Communist Party leaders. Leo Suryadinata pieces together the events in explaining how this catastrophe continues to impact Indonesia.
A woman cycles in Hanoi on 21 September 2020. (Nhac Nguyen/AFP)

How Vietnam is leveraging anti-China sentiments online

In this era of blossoming social media, anti-China sentiments have morphed and manifested online, compelling Vietnamese authorities to keep close tabs on it. ISEAS academic Dien Nguyen An Luong examines how the Vietnamese authorities have increasingly looked to social media to gauge anti-China sentiments and to calibrate their responses accordingly.
Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, 8 October 2020. (Alexei Druzhinin/Sputnik/AFP)

Will Beijing hinder Moscow's operations in the South China Sea?

The South China Sea poses a stress test in Russia-China relations, pitting China’s claims against Russian energy interests.
Supporters of President Donald Trump wave flags and hold signs at Skylands Stadium during an election rally on 14 October 2020 in Augusta, New Jersey. (Spencer Platt/AFP)

Biden or Trump? Southeast Asia’s stakes in the US election

A checklist of the differences Southeast Asia can expect if Joe Biden wins the US presidential election or Donald Trump is returned to the White House.
A news report on Chinese President Xi Jinping's speech in the city of Shenzhen is shown on a public screen in Hong Kong, China, on 14 October 2020. (Roy Liu/Bloomberg)

Quad: Containing China should not be the raison d’être for any grouping

When asked in a recent interview to comment on the joint push for a "free and open Indo-Pacific" and whether it was realistic to formalise such an institution, former US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said he would like a coalition in the Asia-Pacific and the Indo-Pacific but not a coalition against something. His view is markedly different from that of many Trump officials, and is similar to that of Japan and many countries in Southeast Asia.
People wearing facemasks as a preventive measure against the Covid-19 coronavirus crowd in a market area in the old quarters of New Delhi on 11 October 2020. (Photo by Sajjad HUSSAIN / AFP)

China has a long-term strategy in Southeast Asia. But what about India?

China is taking action to deepen economic engagement with Southeast Asia. India, despite Prime Minister Modi’s Act East rhetoric, is not.