On 23 June 2022, the import of 100 megawatts (MW) of hydropower from Laos to Singapore through Thailand and Malaysia was hailed as a historic milestone. Part of a pilot project known as the Lao PDR-Thailand-Malaysia-Singapore Power Integration Project (LTMS-PIP), this event represented Singapore’s first ever import of renewable energy, and also the first instance of cross-border electricity trade involving four countries from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
However, this development takes place amid rising concerns for the ecological future of the transboundary Mekong River and the millions of people who depend on it. A 2018 study by the Mekong River Commission concluded that further hydropower development on the river would negatively affect ecosystems, and would reduce soil fertility, rice production, fish yields and food security, while increasing poverty in the river basin.
We need only call to mind the first half of 2022 for an array of the extreme, energy-related global challenges we all face. Around the world, local versions of climate change effects—the temperatures, wildfires, droughts, storms, flooding—underscore how important it is for us to transition away from our overdependence on fossil fuels. And our energy sources don’t just have environmental implications but security ones as well. The Russian invasion of Ukraine is the latest rendition of the resource curse. At the heart of it all, fossil fuels are what enabled and amplified the murderous narcissism we see in Vladimir Putin and created a country with an unbalanced and unhealthy domestic economy able to profoundly destabilize energy flows and prices around the world.
The South China Sea (SCS) brings together its own assortment of these complex challenges and factors. Competing security concerns, resource needs, and nationalisms shape the motivations of the claimants. Much of the attention and conflict has centred on the oil and gas in the seabed. Estimates of SCS hydrocarbon volumes vary; only some of these resources are proven reserves that have been confirmed and measured, and are actually recoverable. But even in more generous assessments, the SCS only provides us with a small percentage of the global total of oil and gas reserves, and even less of the overall energy mix if we include non-fossil-fuel energy sources.
Beyond hydrocarbons, in a two-way tie with the adjacent Coral Triangle, the SCS has the highest level of marine biodiversity in the world. SCS fisheries feed and employ millions of people in the region. It’s true that conflict over these living marine resources also drives the territorial disputes in the region, and a wide variety of human activity degrades the SCS ecosystem. Yet drilling for hydrocarbons in the SCS threatens this vulnerable marine habitat even more, while also clearly contributing to geopolitical and security tensions in the region—and to climate change.
Given how destabilizing oil and gas pursuits have been for the SCS since the 1970s, we might ask ourselves whether we want to keep drilling for fossil fuels there. Do the costs and risks outweigh the benefits?
Download this 21-page report (button above) from Dr. Tabitha Grace Mallory, an inaugural John H. McArthur Research Fellow, an initiative of the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada, and the Founder of China Ocean Institute and Affiliate Professor, Jackson School of International Studies, University of Washington.
Below, explore the rich marine biodiversity of the South China Sea, one of the most hotly-contested maritime jurisdictions on the planet, in this original map created by the author and APF Canada graphic designer Chloe Fenemore, based on historical and contemporary maps cited in the full report.
Tabitha Grace Mallory is the Founder of China Ocean Institute and Affiliate Professor, Jackson School of International Studies, University of Washington. Dr. Mallory specializes in Chinese foreign and environmental policy. She conducts research on China and global ocean governance and has published work on China’s fisheries and oceans policy.
Dr. Mallory is an inaugural John H. McArthur Research Fellow, an initiative of the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada launched in 2021 to provide research opportunities for exceptional, mid-career scholars who are working on programs and research areas with direct relevance to Canada and Canada’s interests in Asia.
In Tokyo on May 23, President Biden announced the formation of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF). The framework will bring together the United States and a dozen other Indo-Pacific countries. The agreement will cover both traditional and digital trade standards, decarbonization and infrastructure, supply chain resiliency, taxation, and anti-corruption.
HANOI: The Southeast Asian Games open in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi on Thursday (May 12) after a six-month COVID-19 delay with Southeast Asian pride at stake in everything from football to bodybuilding and e-sports.
More than 5,000 athletes including Olympic champions are vying for more than 500 gold medals in the event, which is staged every two years, in what should be packed arenas.
The 11-nation Games include traditional Olympic sports such as athletics, swimming and boxing, but also regional ones like sepak takraw, an eye-catching volleyball-style game where teams kick a rattan ball.
Southeast Asian nations have been rather subdued in their responses to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, although all but two—Vietnam and Laos—voted in the United Nations in early March to condemn Moscow’s aggression. The fighting erupted thousands of miles away, but the effects, particularly of the sanctions imposed by the United States, Europe, Japan, Australia, and others, will still have economic reverberations in Southeast Asia.
Overall, Russia and Ukraine are relatively minor economic players in Southeast Asia, with Russia making up just over 0.64 percent of global trade with the region while Ukraine accounts for just 0.11 percent, according to ASEANstats. But Moscow’s Economic Development Ministry has said that it will work to boost trade and economic links with Asia to balance sanctions.
The Covid-19 crisis has stalled the delivery of much-needed climate finance to developing countries. For Southeast Asia, a region frequently cited as being one of the most vulnerable regions threatened by climate change, the broken promise of climate finance is highly disappointing.
Climate finance has been one of the most contentious issues in global climate politics. At the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 15), developed countries committed to mobilising by 2020 US$100 billion climate finance annually to assist vulnerable countries. The pledge has been key to building trust between states to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius, as specified in the Paris Agreement.
The US has gained ground against China in the contest for regional influence in Southeast Asia, according to the latest State of Southeast Asia Survey. ASEAN continues to be seen as ineffective in the eyes of respondents; at the same time, they are willing to give it credit when it is due.
The United States is gaining significant ground against China in the battle to win friends and influence countries, with respondents across Southeast Asia confident that Washington would be able to lead on issues such as championing free trade and upholding the rules-based regional order.
A fresh reading of The State of Southeast Asia Survey also showed that pressing issues — the Covid-19 pandemic, unemployment and economic retraction as well as climate change – continue to be prioritised by respondents. In their view, however, ASEAN is seen as too slow and ineffective to cope with rapid developments.
Southeast Asia is no stranger to strategic competition. But its ‘new geopolitics’ is different from those that existed during the Cold War.
In fighting communism, the United States extended its security umbrella to the region. This gave ASEAN members breathing space and allowed them to focus on economic growth and domestic stability. It also stimulated unity among Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines due to fear of being entangled in great power intervention. Aid and investment from Japan, a US ally and Asia’s then fastest rising economy, helped industrialise several Southeast Asian countries.
Now, China has displaced Japan as Asia’s largest economy and ASEAN’s largest trade partner. China’s GDP today is more than five times that of ASEAN’s combined. It spends five times more on defence. Unlike the Soviet Union, China is Southeast Asia’s immediate neighbour — a dragon breathing down its neck.
William Bratton is author of “China’s Rise, Asia’s Decline.” He was previously head of equity research, Asia-Pacific, at HSBC.
It is easy to forget that it was South America, not Asia, that was once seen as the world’s emerging economic hot spot.
Many of the region’s countries were relatively prosperous in the first half of the 20th century. Argentina, for example, was then one of the world’s richest countries. They also achieved impressive growth rates in the immediate aftermath of World War II.
But South America has fallen far since those halcyon days. The region’s combined gross domestic product, in constant dollar terms, was 22% of the U.S.’s in 1980 but just 17% in 2020. This relative decline is even more stark on a per capita basis. Brazil’s GDP per capita was 22% of the U.S.’s in 1980 but only 14% in 2020, while Mexico’s fell from 25% to 15% over the same period.
Kurt Campbell, the U.S. National Security Council Indo-Pacific coordinator speaks at the United States Institute of Peace on Nov. 19. (Screenshot)KEN MORIYASU, Nikkei Asia chief desk editorNovember 20, 2021 03:20 JST
NEW YORK — U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration views India and Vietnam as key countries to strengthen relations with, his Indo-Pacific point man said Friday.
India will be a key fulcrum player on the global stage in the 21st century, and successive American administrations have been united in that assessment, said Kurt Campbell, the National Security Council’s coordinator for the Indo-Pacific, at an event hosted by the Washington-based United States Institute of Peace.
“I’m very bullish about the future with India. I think we all recognize that the critical, crucial member in the Quad is India,” Campbell said, referring to the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue among the U.S., Japan, India and Australia.
by Murray Hiebert (Senior Associate, Southeast Asia Program) and Danielle Fallin (Program Coordinator and Research Assistant, Southeast Asia Program)
A 1.5-degree Celsius increase in global warming poses an immediate threat to Southeast Asia’s economic, political, and health security. Mitigating the effects of climate change is key to the United States’ goal to secure a free, open, and prosperous Indo-Pacific.
Southeast Asia will be one of the world’s most vulnerable regions to climate change unless countries make dramatic cuts in greenhouse gas pollution. According to a 2018 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a global warming increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.4 degrees Fahrenheit) will cause rising seas, dangerous flooding, and changing rain patterns leading to violent typhoons and drought. Global warming poses a threat to food security, hobbles economic growth, prompts political instability, and catalyzes pandemics. In extreme cases, it can create an environment conducive to terrorist activities.
Situated at the heart of the Indo-Pacific, Southeast Asia has, in recent years, become the bellwether for the region, including the future of democratic governance. External powers, including the United States and China, have ramped up engagement with Southeast Asia and now compete for influence in the region. Amid these geopolitical shifts, Southeast Asian perspectives on dynamics that will shape the future of the region more than ever before.
In late 2019, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) conducted a survey of strategic elites in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand as well as Fiji to understand how the region views trends related to power, norms, and institutions. In early 2020, CSIS conducted extensive analysis of the survey data and convened a workshop in Sydney, Australia, to further examine the results with leading experts from the countries surveyed, as well as Australia and the United States. This report presents key findings from the survey and workshop on the strategic landscape in Southeast Asia and the future of power and influence and challenges faced by the region.
This report is made possible by the generous support from the Australian Department of Defence and the Australian Embassy, Washington, D.C.
Satellite images have revealed the illegal discharge of waste oil and sludge from ships to be a daily occurrence in Indonesia, while Southeast Asia’s biodiverse waters suffer more from the problem than anywhere. What can be done to stop the destructive practice of bilge dumping?
Indonesia’s environment ministry has terminated its forest conservation partnership with WWF, citing the organization’s violations of their agreement.
But the spat appears to have been inflamed by high-profile social media posts that praised WWF Indonesia’s work to tackle forest fires last year during a period in which government efforts faced widespread criticism.
WWF Indonesia has operated in Indonesia for more than 50 years, and its ongoing programs with other government institutions remain unaffected by the environment ministry’s move.