Saturday 21 May 2022 | 07:18 | SYDNEY
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Southeast Asia

Not all maritime disputes are built the same

Maritime disputes in Southeast Asia should be viewed less as a single big basket of problems, and more as smaller individual problems with their own corresponding solutions. There is not a one-size-fits-all approach. And three inter-related policy contexts can help explain why some troubles persist

Asia’s Covid waste dilemma

For the last couple of years, virtually every news feed or broadcast has included images of mask-clad people or health workers suited up as protection from Covid-19. While the images might be ephemeral, those masks and personal protective equipment (PPE), along with used test kits and discarded

Trouble on the Mekong

Two reports released last month by The Mekong River Commission (MRC), an inter-governmental organisation that works with the governments of Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam to jointly manage the river’s resources, serve as a crucial health check on the state of Southeast Asia’s longest

The Indo-Pacific Operating System: How can America shore up the regional order?

Five essays from experts from, or based in, Southeast Asia provide a sense of the region’s complexity and the nuance with which any effort to shore up – or rebuild – regional order must grapple

Is Australia relevant?

Last week, Singapore’s Education Minister Chan Chun Sing addressed the Fullerton lecture series on US-China relations and his own country’s foreign policy. Chan, a leading member of the so-called “4G” or fourth-generation of Singaporean politicians, echoed some familiar refrains about the

US-China rivalries: What matters for ASEAN

An interesting discussion about how Australia should respond to US President Joe Biden’s call for closer alignment and cooperation among democratic states has featured in a recent series of articles on The Interpreter. Between them, Susannah Patton and Ashley Townshend,  Michael Green, Ben

Is Southeast Asia ready for a US-China tech decoupling?

Recent developments suggest that both China and the United States are taking steps towards unravelling or “decoupling” their technology ecosystems. Nowhere has this been more evident than in the semiconductor industry, which manufactures the chips allowing everything from smartphones to cars to

Myanmar is not the next Syria

The deteriorating situation in Myanmar has led some observers to issue warnings of a “new Syria”. The two scenarios are not without broad similarities. In mid-April, civilians in Myanmar were being killed at a higher rate than in 2011 Syria, when a crackdown on protests sparked a brutal civil

Indonesia raises ASEAN’s bar on Myanmar

For much of his presidency, Indonesia’s Joko Widodo has taken a mercantilist view of foreign policy, pushing the country’s diplomats to promote trade and investment while keeping their heads below the parapet on most thorny international issues. Indonesia’s inward-looking approach compounded

The Quad gives a boost to India’s vaccine diplomacy

The most notable takeaway from the first-ever “Quad” leaders meeting involving the US, India, Japan and Australia at the weekend was the agreement on expanding the global vaccine supply. The vaccination capacity of India will be increased to produce 1 billion doses by 2022, the leaders announced

America’s troubles ahead in the Asia-Pacific

Donald Trump has now become the first US president in history to be impeached twice, this time for “incitement of insurrection” for his role in last week’s violence in Washington. Yet as the US reels from the storming of the US Capitol building – civil strife which some analysts had warned

Chinese dams and the Mekong drought

The latest reports from the Lower Mekong Basin are cause for growing concern that another period of drought will succeed that of 2019, affecting Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. Expected rainfall from late May through June and July has not arrived, and the level of water flowing in the river is

Brookings Report: Historical tensions and contemporary governance challenges in Southeast Asia: The case of Indonesia

In this report published by the Brookings Institution, Ben Bland explains why Western nations need to engage with Indonesia in its own right, not as a part of plan to counterbalance China. To do so successfully, they need to develop a much better understanding of the long-running (and ongoing)

US regional leadership: A shot across the bow

For years at the Shangri-La Dialogue, the pre-eminent meeting of defence ministers held in Singapore, successive secretaries of defence from the United States have repeated ad nauseam that Washington is a “resident power” in the region.It is becoming increasingly evident that the Covid-19

Time with Trump: Australia and Southeast Asia compared

Over the last two years, US President Donald Trump has made two trips to Southeast Asia and none to Australia. Despite this, according to White House media notifications, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his predecessor, Malcolm Turnbull, each engaged more with Trump than the ten leaders of

Deep fakes could have real consequences for Southeast Asia

In Malaysia, a sex-tape scandal engulfing the country in recent months has threatened to destabilise the governing coalition. While the tape has been determined by the police to be authentic, and not a forgery, it is still questioned in some quarters. The truth of the video itself is a point of

After the voting, personality beats policy in Southeast Asia

It has been an unusually intense time for elections across Southeast Asia in the past year with both a stunning upset and more predictable returns of incumbents. But the striking thing from a quick tour of some of the main battlefields is how the general absence of clear policy reform debate in

China’s Belt and Road Initiative: status report

China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) continues to attract much comment. To some, it is a threat – proof that China’s aim is to extend Chinese global influence. To others, it is a useful contribution to global capital flows. Where does the balance lie between these two views? Just

ASEAN Regional Forum: less might be more

The ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) – with its unwieldy number of member states (27) and preoccupation with dialogue (a “talk shop”) – has been declared a failure time and again. Some criticism is justified. But it can also be argued that the earliest expectations regarding this regional

Economic diplomacy: trade and traps in ASEAN

Middle aged spread Southeast Asian countries are about to become the primary focus of Australia’s public diplomacy this year as the “Australia now” program stretches its budget from the usual single country approach to all ten countries of the ASEAN group. This stepped-up

China eyes its next prize – the Mekong

Beijing’s islands-building in the South China Sea and their militarisation, replete with surface-to-air missiles, is near complete. With guile, threat, and coercion, China can now seize control of one of the main transport arteries of Southeast Asia, making a mockery of

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