The river security of the Mekong has emerged as another area of growing contestation and despite its lower international profile and arguably lower global impact, this sub-region will have a determining factor on China’s relations with Southeast Asia.
Economic policies beg for a major update from the implementation of the Doi Moi reforms in 1986. To ensure full integration into the global economy, including fulfilling expectations of the TPP, Vietnam need to do some serious adjustments.
China has become a major source for tourists for all Southeast Asian states. Laos is no exception in trying to attract this revenue earner. Improved connectivity through high-speed rail is one way to harness this potential and ensure Laos stays competitive in this market.
A recent China-ASEAN agreement for a “framework” for a South China Sea Code of Conduct has triggered an outburst of diplomatic optimism. But the sad reality is that there has been little progress towards a binding, robust COC.
A spat between former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and the Sultan of Johor has drawn China into a political dispute in Malaysia. The spat concerns Forest City, a real estate project constructed jointly by a Chinese developer and a local developer with a stake held by the Sultan.
The current regional political constellation — in particular the trend of concentrating on domestic politics at the expense of regional matters — partially explains the weakening commitment to ASEAN across Southeast Asia. This contributes to an expectation for countries with strong regional agendas, like Vietnam, to step up.
In his address to the 2016 Shangri-La Dialogue, US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter outlined the US concept of a principled security network in the Asia-Pacific. The US sees China’s activities, especially in the South China Sea, as leading it towards raising a “Great Wall of self-isolation.”