Bill Hayton

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Men dressed as frontline workers from the First Indochina War parade by a poster of the late general Vo Nguyen Giap as Vietnam marks the 70th anniversary of the Dien Bien Phu battle, on 7 May 2024 in Dien Bien Phu City. Photo: Linh Pham/Getty Images.

In just a few weeks, the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) has shredded its reputation for boring political stability. A long-running power struggle, disguised by a wider anti-corruption campaign, has resulted in the sudden sacking of both the country’s president, Vo Van Thuong, and the chair of the National Assembly.

The outcome of this fight should cause those who still hope that Vietnam could join an ‘anti-China’ coalition to think again. Although this power struggle is not about foreign policy, it will result in a turn towards China and away from the West.

The sackings in March and May this year follow the dismissal, early last year, of the then president and deputy prime minister.…  Seguir leyendo »

US Speaker of the House Of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, poses with Taiwan President, Tsai Ing-wen, in Taipei, Taiwan on 3 August 2022. Photo: Handout/Getty Images.

China’s fading ties with Washington?

Dr Yu Jie

US House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi’s, visit to Taiwan has plunged China-US relations into a new low as the reservoir of trust forged between the two sides over the last 40 years appears to be almost exhausted.

However, her move will likely not result in the full-scale crisis across the Taiwan strait that some hawkish voices in both Beijing and Washington believe. Instead, Beijing will most likely offer a combination of military posturing toward the US navy and economic sanctions on Taiwanese agricultural and manufacturing products in order to send a clear bellwether to any future potential visits by high-level Western political figures.…  Seguir leyendo »

A student dances during military training at the Shandong University of Arts in Jinan, Shandong Province of China. Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is adopting a new ‘Strategic Concept’ that will, for the first time, include direct reference to China, and its Madrid summit will also see another first with the participation of Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and South Korea.

Neither of these changes means NATO aims to expand to include Asia but it shows the 30 NATO members are concerned about security threats from Asia expanding into Europe and North America. In a world of long-range missiles, cyber operations, and vulnerable supply chains, the concerns of ‘Euro-Atlantic’ countries have become global.

NATO’s interest in Asia began more than 20 years ago following the al-Qaeda attacks on the US in 2001.…  Seguir leyendo »

The explanations for Marcos and Duterte’s impending victory lie mostly in the country’s economic, social and political divisions.

On 9 May, if present trends continue, the people of the Philippines will elect as their president and vice president the son of a discredited dictator and the daughter of a man being investigated for crimes against humanity. Opinion polls suggest the presidency will be won by Ferdinand Marcos Jr, better known as ‘Bongbong’, and the vice-presidency by Sara Duterte.

Bongbong’s father was Ferdinand Marcos Sr, who was elected president in 1965 and imposed martial law in 1972 before being deposed by a ‘people power’ revolution in 1986. During those two decades his family amassed billions of dollars in private wealth, oversaw the killing and disappearance of thousands of political opponents and created a debt-fuelled economic boom which ended in a major recession.…  Seguir leyendo »

Protester's face painted in the colours of the Ukrainian flag during a mass protest at the Benjakitti park in Bangkok, Thailand against Russia's invasion. Photo by Peerapon Boonyakiat/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images.

After a week in which they have struggled to say anything meaningful about the Russian attack on Ukraine, the ten members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) finally called for ‘an immediate ceasefire’. At the heart of ASEAN’s difficulties lies the region’s wide range of relationships with Moscow.

Russia’s closest partner in the region is probably Vietnam, its fifth-largest arms purchaser. Russian companies are also major investors in Vietnam’s oil and gas sector. At the other end of the scale, Singapore’s trade with Russia amounts to less than one per cent of its total international trade.

Straddling such divisions is normal business for ASEAN.…  Seguir leyendo »

Filipino fishermen prepare to sail despite alleged harassment by China in the West Philippine Sea. The Philippines won a landmark arbitral case against China over territorial claims in the South China Sea. Photo by Jes Aznar/Getty Images.

Indonesia’s Maritime Security Agency has invited counterparts from Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam to ‘share experiences and foster brotherhood’ as the six Southeast Asian countries most affected by China’s activities in the South China Sea. The gathering next month appears to have been triggered by reports of Chinese coastguard ships harassing Indonesian oil and gas exploration.

Indonesia has long acted as if it were not involved in the South China Sea disputes but is now forced to recognize that Chinese companies and state agencies covet the oil, gas, and fish resources available off its coast, and so finds itself in the same boat as its Southeast Asian neighbours.…  Seguir leyendo »

Journalist, Maria Ressa, is seen at the National Bureau of Investigation in Manila, Philippines. Ressa was released on bail following her arrest for criticising President Rodrigo Duterte causing international censure. Photo: Getty Images.

All of the countries of Southeast Asia currently sit in the bottom half of the World Press Freedom Index, with four – Brunei, Laos, Singapore and Vietnam – ranked below 150 in the 180-country list, and Myanmar expected to join them following its February 2020 coup.

In these countries, critical coverage is not formally banned but there is no presumption of the right to publish. In Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand, for example, a theoretical commitment to freedom of expression is marred by restrictive legislation, intimidation and even the killing of journalists.

The media in Southeast Asia faces two problems – vaguely worded laws open to abuse and politically-motivated prosecutions – and, in the absence of robust independent courts willing to challenge these governments, politicians have been able to pursue personal vendettas against publications and individuals with few limitations.…  Seguir leyendo »

Myanmar migrants in Thailand protest against the military coup in their home country in front of the United Nations building in Bangkok. Photo by MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP via Getty Images.

Myanmar's military leadership has reverted to type and started killing large numbers of people. The generals have spent decades preparing for this moment and they are ready.

Hidden in their military cantonments and protected by soldiers, police and plainclothes thugs, they are suffering only the mildest inconvenience while the cities ring to the sound of protest. Why should they worry about angry crowds with witty placards when their side has live ammunition?

In the city streets, the people demand democracy, but the military, known as the Tatmadaw, is not about to back down because of some disruptions in Yangon and Mandalay.…  Seguir leyendo »

A PLA Navy fleet takes part in a review in the South China Sea on 12 April. Photo: Getty Images.

On 12 July 2016, an independent arbitral tribunal established under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) published a clear and binding ruling on China’s claims vis-à-vis the Philippines in the South China Sea. China’s response at the time was to dismiss the ruling as ‘nothing more than a piece of waste paper’.

Interestingly, in the two years since then it has, in some small ways, complied with it. However, it is also clear that China’s behaviour in the South China Sea has not fundamentally changed. It is, in effect, using military force to try to extort concessions from its neighbours.…  Seguir leyendo »

HMS Sutherland visits Japan in April. Photo: Getty Images.

This weekend the British defence secretary, Gavin Williamson, is likely to reveal that two British naval ships have taken part in ‘freedom of navigation’ operations in the South China Sea during the past month. This will highlight a significant revival of British interest in Asian security after four years in which no Royal Navy ship visited the Asia-Pacific.

Williamson is expected to tell the international security conference in Singapore known as the ‘Shangri La Dialogue’ that HMS Albion and HMS Sutherland sailed through parts of the South China Sea to which China is attempting to restrict access. HMS Albion navigated through the Spratly Islands in early May en route from Brunei to Japan.…  Seguir leyendo »

A Chinese coast guard vessel sails near an oil drilling rig in disputed waters in the South China Sea in 2014. Photo: Getty Images.

Vietnam has lost another sea battle: a $200 million oil and gas development project — known as the ‘Red Emperor’ development — off Vietnam’s southeast coast has been suspended, possibly cancelled. Hanoi’s hopes of a hydrocarbon boost to its stretched government budget have been dashed. And the culprit is Vietnam’s ‘good neighbour, good comrade and good friend’ to the north.

The project, many years in the making, was a joint venture between Repsol of Spain, Mubadala of Abu Dhabi and the state-owned energy company PetroVietnam. Commercial drilling was due to begin this April and oil and gas were expected to flow for at least 10 years.…  Seguir leyendo »

The USS Carl Vinson pulls into port in Danang on 5 March. Photo: Getty Images.

The United States is sending one of its largest ships, the USS Carl Vinson, to Vietnam this week. It will be the first aircraft carrier to dock in the country since the end of the war in Vietnam, over 40 years ago.

In some respects this is a routine event: other US warships have been visiting Vietnamese ports since 2003. But it is also a symbolic moment. Previously, Vietnamese governments kept aircraft carriers at arm’s length – officials have only visited them far offshore. By welcoming the USS Carl Vinson into the harbour at Danang, the country’s third city, and the one closest to the disputed Paracel Islands, Vietnam is clearly sending out some strong messages.…  Seguir leyendo »

On 10 November, Donald Trump will arrive in Danang, central Vietnam, the same city where American combat troops first landed 52 years ago. He will need to move beyond half-century-old memories to demonstrate the United States’ continuing relevance, however. Today, for the disparate regimes in Southeast Asia, the US is two things above all: a provider of diplomatic and military leverage and a market. The presence of US Pacific Command and a small army of American diplomats in the region also allow them to balance their diplomatic relations between Beijing and Washington. On the economic side, the 10 members of ASEAN enjoy an annual goods-trade surplus with the US: it was $83 billion in 2016.…  Seguir leyendo »

A Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh. Photo: Getty Images.

The harrowing scenes of human suffering on the Myanmar–Bangladesh border have provoked outpourings of sympathy and some firm statements by international politicians. At least half a million people have been brutally expelled from their homes and are now living in miserable conditions in muddy refugee camps and storm-drenched shanty towns. As the international community debates how to respond, it needs to take a clear-eyed view of the situation and recognise a brutal truth: the refugees are almost certainly not going home.

Consequently, policymakers must not hide behind the fiction that Bangladesh is only temporarily hosting the refugees in preparation for their rapid return home.…  Seguir leyendo »

The ruling by an arbitral tribunal of five members based in The Hague was simple and devastating. It declares that ‘China’s claims to historic rights… with respect to the maritime areas of the South China Sea encompassed by the relevant part of the “nine-dash line” are contrary to the [The UN] Convention [on the Law of the Sea, UNCLOS]’. This is a result that Southeast Asia’s maritime countries have long sought. The way is now clear to resolve all the disputes in the region, if the participants choose to do so.

For decades, countries around the South China Sea lived under the shadow of a quasi-territorial claim that no one really understood.…  Seguir leyendo »

Rodrigo Duterte prepares to vote inside a polling precinct on 9 May 2016 in Davao. Photo by Getty Images.

The victory of political outsider Rodrigo Duterte in the 2016 Philippines’ elections is proof that a significant minority of the country’s population feels left behind by its recent economic success and estranged from its political elite. However the results of the elections as a whole suggest that most voters opted for a continuation of the current government’s policies.

Duterte looks almost certain to be inaugurated as the next president of the Philippines on 30 June. The country’s presidential voting system – a single round, first-past-the-post election – delivered victory to a populist outsider with 39 per cent support. Two candidates advocating a continuation of the current government’s policies − the Liberal Party’s Mar Roxas and independent Grace Poe − polled a combined 45 per cent.…  Seguir leyendo »

A worker repaints a statue of late president Ho Chi Minh at a public park in the southern city of Can Tho, Vietnam. Photo by Getty Images.

Every five years, the Communist Party of Vietnam holds a Congress to set the country’s agenda for the next five years, and choose a new leadership. The most powerful figure in the country is not the prime minister or president, but the general secretary of the Party. In the months leading up to the most recent Congress, held this week, the country’s prime minister for the past 10 years, Nguyen Tan Dung, had made it clear that he wanted the top job. As one of the key architects of Vietnam’s recently impressive economic growth and with a reputation as a shrewd political operator, most outside observers assumed that he would get his way.…  Seguir leyendo »