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In Challenging Waters, Vietnam to Steer ASEAN as Mediator

Vietnam wants to be a bridge builder for ASEAN as Chair for 2020, using its skills in staying multilateral politically and economically -– and looks far beyond the headline-grabbing South China  issue and its giant neighbor to the north. Du Nhat Dang explains in this Reporting ASEAN feature.

ASEAN Likes, But Also Fears, China’s Economic Weight

China is not yet an economic behemoth in ASEAN, given that it’s s more of a trade power than a major foreign investor in the region. But the day may not be so far away when ASEAN countries find China’s clout to be much bigger – and a more potent geopolitical tool in areas like the South China Sea disputes – if they do not diversify their economic ties, writes Johanna Son for the Reporting ASEAN series.

Bumpy Road for the Philippines as ASEAN Chair

The Philippines’ chairmanship of ASEAN during the organisation’s 50th year has been a bumpy road, Walden Bello points out this Reporting ASEAN commentary. The year has been marked by Malaysia’s breaking of the ASEAN consensus habit in the ASEAN chair’s statement on Rakhine state, the Philippines’ failure to push the social-protection mechanisms it listed as deliverables, and the Duterte government’s giving China a free pass in the South China Sea.

Laos and Cambodia: The China Dance

Laos has been more diplomatically adept than Cambodia at balancing ties with China with those of other countries. But while both are undoubtedly dancing with China, the social, economic and developmental cost of this dance remains to be seen in the coming years, says Johanna Son of Reporting ASEAN in this analysis.

ASEAN-China Ties: Ticking Time Bomb or ‘Asian’ World Order?

Since China has suffered a “century of humiliation” from the imperial powers, it should understand that ASEAN states, too, can suffer similar “humiliation” from China, Bo Yuan writes in this commentary.  In fact, its behaviour in the South China Sea tells ASEAN countries that China sees them as “tributaries” – akin to those during the Imperial China era – that must kowtow to the Middle Kingdom’s supremacy.

The Philippines’ Headache over China

When history is written one day of how a country called the Philippines dealt with China, would it make for a legend about how it smartly navigated geopolitical waters to assert its territorial and economic rights – or a case study in how to bend over backwards and cede these to its giant neighbour to the […]

Time for ASEAN to be a Middle Power

As ASEAN reaches the 50-year mark, it should free itself from the old confines of navigating between the big powers and build its muscle as a middle power – one that confidently and collectively holds its own against undue external pressures, be it China, the United States, or others. Johanna Son* reports.

 

ASEAN’s 50th Year Agenda: Beyond the South China Sea?

The South China Sea disputes figured much less prominently in the just-finished ASEAN foreign ministers’ retreat in scenic Boracay – in stark contrast to the February 2017 retreat held in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic. ASEAN appears to be bent on not letting the South China Sea issue overshadow the celebrations – and backpatting – around its 50th year anniversary this year, reports Charmaine Deogracias for the Reporting ASEAN series.

In ASEAN, ‘We Will Be Thinking As One’

Pushing ASEAN centrality. Speeding up the Code of Conduct on the South China Sea. Reviving the East ASEAN Growth Area. Philippine Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr lays down the priorities during the Philippines’ chairmanship of ASEAN in 2017, when the regional grouping turns 50 – in this Q&A with Charmaine Deogracias, a fellow in the Reporting ASEAN series.

Philippines Unlikely to Rock the Boat as ASEAN Chair

The Duterte Administration may have stirred controversies in foreign policy, but it is not expected to rock the boat as chair of the Association of the Southeast Asian Nations in 2017. The Philippines’ chairmanship won’t be as controversial as Cambodia’s was in 2012, asserts Walden Bello in this commentary for the Reporting ASEAN series.

ASEAN: Duterte’s China Move

Like Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’e high-octane politics or hate it, but his brand of leadership has not been seen in ASEAN in decades, Kavi Chongkittavorn says in this piece for Reporting ASEAN. And whatever one thinks of Duterte’s China move, his overtures to Beijing have gone a long way in defusing the South China Sea tensions.

South China Sea Dispute: Asean Voice Drowned Out As Big Powers Pipe Up

The recent joint communique about the South China Sea dispute stopped short of mentioning the tribunal ruling invalidating China’s claims over most of the waterway. Tan Hui Yee of the Straits Times argues that while Asean has survived this test intact, its consensus-based system has muted its voice compared with the world powers weighing in loudly.

ASEAN, China after the PCA Verdict: We’re Still Friends

A mix of rising tempers, nationalism and politics is swirling in the weeks after the July ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) against China in the South China Sea. But recent communication between ASEAN and China, after the decision, appear to show a mutual desire to get beyond this sensitive issue on the 25th year of ASEAN-China ties, says Kavi Chongkittavorn in this commentary for Reporting ASEAN.

Southeast Asian Newspapers’ take on the Special ASEAN-China FM Meeting

The Special ASEAN-China Foreign Ministers’ Meeting might have concluded a week ago, but its aftershocks continue to rattle ASEAN as it reassesses its strategy in handling the South China Sea (SCS) dispute. Jason Salim takes a look at some of the editorial pieces and reporting in Southeast Asian newspapers regarding the “media statement” fiasco in this commentary.

South China Sea: Who Occupies What in the Spratlys?

The discourse over the South China Sea disputes never abates as there is still no real clarity about who occupies what in the huge-contested Spratly Islands. Alexander L. Vuving of ‘The Diplomat’ attempts to list what different countries occupy in the South China Sea.

Obituary: Association of Southeast Asian Nations (1967-2016)

The dispute in the South China Sea issue has already climbed up several notches in ASEAN’s agenda over the last few years. China will try different diplomatic means to push its agenda, as Philip Bowring of the Asia Sentinel argues regarding its attempts to present Brunei, Laos and Cambodia as sympathetic to its side on the maritime feud.

 

Mekong Cooperation, China-style

The China-led Lancang-Mekong Cooperation (LMC) mechanism, which had its first leaders’ summit in March 2016, may sound boring but has big implications for water governance in the Mekong region, and for dividing ASEAN states in their dealings with China. In this commentary for the ‘Reporting ASEAN’ series, Johanna Son says that  the Beijing-dominated forum that is far from neutral for smaller states. LMC could also undercut the ASEAN centrality the organisation so values.

Philippines, Singapore Push for Asean Solidarity, Centrality in Resolving South China Sea Rows

Two ASEAN member states stress ASEAN centrality – precious to the regional organisation – amid tensions in the swirling waters of the South China Sea. The region’s solidarity, unity and centrality are “fundamental as they are vital” in resolving issues related to the disputed body of water, the Philippines and Singapore said in this ‘Straits Times’ article by Raul Dancel.

China’s ‘Water Grab’ and Its Consequences

Southeast Asia’s waters are boiling with politics, tussles involving fishing boats, South China Sea disputes and dam issues in the Mekong – on top of the steaming-hot weather these days. Thitinan Pongsudhirak analyses China’s conduct in the region in this commentary in the ‘Bangkok Post’.

How ASEAN are Filipinos?

Separated from mainland South-east by vast oceans, the Philippines is often seen as more interested in the West than in its own neighbours. Will the ASEAN mindset grow in the Filipino psyche now that the ASEAN Community has been launched?

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