Is Vietnam’s bamboo diplomacy threatened by pandas?

Russian President Vladimir Putin talks with Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang as they attend the cooperation signing ceremony between Russia and Vietnam at the Presidential Palace in Hanoi, Vietnam in November 2013 (Photo: AAP).

Author: Thuy T. Do, ANU

Vietnam is maximising its political leverage with ‘clumping bamboo’ diplomacy. Although Thailand is famous for its skilful ‘bamboo diplomacy’ — always solidly rooted but flexible enough to bend whichever way the wind blows to survive — the Vietnamese have found another diplomatic philosophy to engage great powers. Read more…

Mongolian foreign policy: a small state with big aspirations

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi shakes hands with Mongolian Foreign Minister Luvsanvandan Bold after they signed agreements at China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing, 16 January, 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Jargalsaikhan Enkhsaikhan, Blue Banner, UN

Mongolia is a relative newcomer in contemporary world politics.

The end of the cold war, the normalisation of Sino–Russian and Sino–Mongolian relations, as well as fundamental changes in Mongolia itself, have changed the country’s geopolitical environment and paved the way for Mongolia to enter international politics. Read more…

Steady as she goes for Indonesian foreign policy, even with a new president

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (Photo: AAP).

Author: Awidya Santikajaya, ANU

During his two terms in office, Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has been lauded for reviving activism in Indonesia’s foreign policy after years of difficulty following the 1997–98 Asian financial crisis and the fall of President Suharto. But will the upcoming leadership transition result in a drastic change in Indonesia’s foreign policy? Read more…

China debates the TPP

Chinese Chief Delegate Wang Shouwen, Assistant Minister of Commerce of China, speaks during the 4th Round of Negotiations on a Free Trade Agreement among China, Japan and South Korea in Seoul on 4 March 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Paul Bowles, University of Northern British Columbia

A host of issues continue to plague Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations.

Constant reminders of how difficult these issues are to conclude come from actors as diverse as Japanese rice farmers, health care advocates in Canada and Australia, and Chilean officials concerned about intellectual property rights and capital controls. Read more…

Trade policy in swing: Indonesia’s attitude to liberalisation and the TPP

Indonesian dock workers unload  sugar imported from Mexico at Tanjung Priok port in Jakarta. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Yose Rizal Damuri, CSIS

When Indonesian officials are asked about the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Indonesia’s involvement in the proposed trade agreement, they normally answer that the country is paying attention to the process and the possible results of the negotiation, but has no interest in joining agreement at this time.

Doubt over Indonesia’s capacity to carry out proposed commitments in the trade deal as well as uncertainty regarding the potential for any significant benefits to the economy are cited as the main reasons for this position. Read more…

Why Indonesia needs to lead in economic integration

ASEAN leaders in Brunei in April 2013. Indonesia set the creation of an ASEAN Economic Community by 2015 as the group’s central objective but progress to date has been modest. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Dionisius Narjoko, ERIA

As the biggest country in Southeast Asia, Indonesia is a natural leader of ASEAN. For decades since the association was established in 1967, Indonesia has played an important role maintaining geopolitical stability in the region. This leadership has recently become more demanding due to border disputes within ASEAN and China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea. Read more…

Revving the engine of Philippine manufacturing

Traffic builds up on a major road of the Philippine capital of Metropolitan Manila on February 17, 2014.  (Photo: AAP).

Author: Rafaelita M. Aldaba, PIDS

A resurgence of the Philippines’ manufacturing industry, driven predominantly by the expansion of domestic investment, puts the industry on the cusp of transformation, into a major driver of growth. Since the first quarter of 2013, manufacturing in the Philippines has continued to post growth rates above 10 per cent, hitting 12.3 per cent for 2013 compared to 5.5 per cent in 2012. Read more…

Time for Indonesia to regain confidence in economic integration

Indonesian workers at Astra Daihatsu Motor manufacturing company in Jakarta. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Sjamsu Rahardja, World Bank

Integrating with the global market place was once Indonesia’s offensive strategic choice to accelerate economic reform and development.

Indonesia has benefited significantly from opening up to trade and investment. It responded without hesitation to plummeting revenues from oil exports in the early 1980s with sweeping reforms to reduce tariffs, non-tariff barriers, red tape in customs clearance and procedures for obtaining business permits. Read more…

Japan’s courtship of ASEAN doomed to end in tears?

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and leaders of ASEAN countries join hands for a photo session of the Japan-ASEAN commemorative summit in Tokyo, December 14, 2013.  (Photo: AAP).

Author: Dylan Loh Ming Hui, RSIS

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe hosted the 40th commemorative Japan–ASEAN summit in Tokyo in December 2013. In a joint statement, Japan and ASEAN referred to ‘the importance of maintaining peace, stability and prosperity in the region and promoting maritime security and safety, freedom of navigation, unimpeded commerce, exercise of self-restraint and resolution of disputes by peaceful means’. Read more…

Will Myanmar’s ASEAN chairmanship lead to national reconciliation?

From left, Philippine Foreign Minister Albert del Rosario, Singaporean Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam, Thai Foreign Minister Sihasak Phuangketkeow, Vietnamese Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh, Brunei Foreign Minister Mohamed Bolkiah, Myanmar Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin, Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman, Cambodia's Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Pou Sothirak, Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, Lao Foreign Minister Thongloun Sisoulith, and ASEAN Secretary General Le Luong Minh of Vietnam, pose for group photos at an Association of Southeast Asian Nations retreat in the ancient city of Bagan, Myanmar 17 January, 2014. It is the first ASEAN meeting being held in Myanmar since the country assumed chairmanship of the 10-member regional grouping late last year. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Eliane Coates, RSIS

Myanmar’s chairmanship of ASEAN this year will become an open display of its progress in undertaking national economic and political reforms. Naypyidaw’s hosting of ASEAN has the potential to improve Myanmar’s international reputation, national economy and, potentially, domestic reconciliation efforts.

Long seen as a pariah state, Myanmar sees the ASEAN chairmanship as an opportunity to demonstrate its reformist credentials and a platform to re-engage the international community. Read more…

Land of the free still trapped in political turmoil

Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra answers questions from the press after voting at a polling station in Bangkok on February 2, 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Pisit Leeahtam, Chiang Mai University

Thailand’s economy began 2013 with initial forecasts for yearly growth ranging between 4.5 per cent and 5.5 per cent. The country had recovered from the 2011 flooding and the stock market had enjoyed a sharp rise since 2012. External demand was expected to improve thanks to signs of an upturn in the United States and Japan. General sentiments were high, although concern over domestic consumption grew out of rising household debt. Read more…

Let’s be honest about what ASEAN can and cannot do

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, South Korean President Park Geun-hye, and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang attend the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN Plus Three Summit in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei on 10 October, 2013. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Rodolfo C. Severino, ISEAS

More and more people, especially in the business sector, are asking whether the ASEAN Community can possibly be realised by 2015, as agreed upon by ASEAN leaders in both 2007 and 2009. Mindful of the possible impact on their bottom lines, ASEAN business leaders are even more specific: can the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) be achieved by 2015? And will regional businesses face stiffer competition? Read more…

Past lessons for Haiyan recovery

The flags of the donors for the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami recovery effort for Aceh and Nias are seen outside the Indonesian BRR (Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Agency) office in Banda, Aceh, 2008 (Photo: BRR/Arif Ariadi).

Authors: Hendri Yuzal, University of Hawaii, and Muamar Vebry, European Union to Indonesia

At the end of 2013, Indonesia commemorated the 9th anniversary of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami. The calamity was unprecedented, the loss of life was staggering. Yet the worst brought out the best in Indonesia, and the worst affected province of Aceh has now been rebuilt in a more resilient way. Read more…

The risks of posturing in East Asia

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, center, laughs with U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, left, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, second from left, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, second from right, and Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera as they put their hands together during their meeting at the prime minister's official residence in Tokyo on 3 October, 2013. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Hitoshi Tanaka, JCIE

The deepening confrontational postures among countries in East Asia presents a significant risk not just to the short-term stability of the region, where miscalculations can lead to violent conflict, but also to the medium to long-term cooperative efforts that are needed to ensure that the evolution of regional order is locked into a peaceful and stable trajectory. Read more…