Malaysia’s 92-year old Dr Mahathir Mohamad is voted back into power. He is likely to reach out to other opposition figures as well as anti-Najib factions within the former ruling party, as he pursues justice for the scandals plaguing Malaysian politics.
ASEAN needs to make substantive adjustments to meet new challenges and adapt to new situations. They need to discuss and communicate with Beijing and come up with a role for ASEAN that plays to its strengths in the process.
The 32nd ASEAN Summit was held in Singapore from April 25-28, 2018. Top of the agenda was ASEAN’s call to form a grid of smart cities by connecting Southeast Asia’s top tiered cities. ASEAN was also concerned about the trade tensions between the US and China.
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.
On March 16, 2018, the Philippines began the process of its withdrawal from the International Criminal Court. The decision ultimately discredits the Philippines’ democratic credentials that are supposedly grounded on the ideals of human rights.
There is a growing protest over Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to downplay the Philippines international arbitration victory over China regarding the South China Sea. Although many of his policy decisions are problematic, in this case his decision has merit.
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.