The US and China have apparently reached a tacit agreement to disagree and to maintain a leaky status quo, a “new normal.” Not coincidentally, relations on this issue between the ASEAN claimants and between ASEAN and China are more or less at the same place.
China is embarking on several mega-projects to supply coal and build new power plants in Indonesia to boost the economy, which has been held back by electricity shortages. China may use these projects as references and applications for its BRI projects.
Facilitated by under-the-radar low-tech boats, collusion with local corrupt officials, and integration with legal trade and activities, piracy in Southeast Asia remains a challenging problem. Multinational agencies are cooperating to counteract.
Gordon Chang wrote recently in the National Interest that China is “itching for a confrontation” in response to the January 17, 2018 innocent passage of the USS Hopper near Scarborough Shoal. James Holmes argued that China does not really want confrontation.
Singapore has played an important role in connecting South Asia with East Asia. It would be fair to say, that in addition to the economic reforms of 1991, and the efforts of successive governments, Singapore deserves credit for helping India strengthen ties with ASEAN.
Two recent publications by the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative of the Center for International and Security Studies condemn China’s policies and actions in the South China Sea while ignoring the similar transgressions of the others there.
While the maritime states of Southeast Asia are not in Cambodia’s immediate neighborhood, they are important for the study of Cambodia’s foreign relations. The pre-colonial kingdoms of today’s Cambodia and maritime Southeast Asia had significant dealings with one another.
US Defense Secretary James Mattis visited Indonesia and Vietnam in January 2018. The goal of the US strategy in Asia is to win the “great power competition” against China. However, the Trump administration seems oblivious to the US loss of soft power in the region.
China’s activities in Southeast Asia indicate that the region remains an important one. The leadership of some countries in Southeast Asia are aligned with the Belt and Road Initiative’s vision of infrastructural connectivity.