ISEAS Perspective 2021

ISEAS Perspective provides analysis of specific current events and their significance for the Southeast Asian region. This will be published occasionally, and is aimed at keeping decision-makers in both the public and private sectors informed; as well as scholars, laymen and the interested public.


2021/83 “Challenges Facing Vietnam’s Emerging Automobility Landscape” by Ivan V. Small


2021 No. 83

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY International trade agreements, especially the ASEAN Free Trade Area, are making cars more accessible to Vietnamese consumers and reshaping the country’s transportation landscape. The pace and sequencing of mobility transitions are a concern given limitations in Vietnam’s transportation infrastructure, planning coordination and environmental and safety management. Future mobility solutions and sustainability models that […]



2020/82 “Tracking the Swelling COVID-19 Vaccine Chatter on TikTok in Indonesia” by Yatun Sastramidjaja and Amirul Adli Rosli


2021 No. 82

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY On Indonesian social media, ambivalent sentiments towards the government’s COVID-19 vaccination program are amplified and solidified into polarized stances, creating fierce competition between opponents and proponents of vaccination to shape public perceptions. These polarized stances are particularly pronounced on TikTok as its videos swiftly go viral by providing quick visual impact and instant […]



2021/81 “Rethinking Extremism Beyond Physical Violence: Anti-Shia Hostility in Malaysia” by Norshahril Saat, Nur Syafiqah Mohd Taufek, and Afra Alatas


2021 No. 81

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Academic studies on extremism have tended to view the issue through a security lens. Recent attacks on churches in Indonesia and Malaysia would have reinforced the popularity of this approach. However, violent extremism does not exist in a vacuum. Acts of terror are driven by ideas and discourse that motivate and justify terrorist […]



2021/80 “The Importance of Export Diversification for Developing ASEAN Economies” by Phi Minh Hong


2021 NO. 80

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Southeast Asian economies have a higher degree of export diversification than those in other developing regions. The region’s upper-middle-income (UMI) economies diversify their export partners and products more than the lower-middle-income (LMI) ones, except for Vietnam, which has succeeded in expanding exports across products and destinations. The more countries diversify their exports, the […]



2021/79 “Ethnic Armed Organisations in Post-Coup Myanmar: New Conversations Needed” by Andrew Ong


2021 No. 79

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY The increasingly widespread attacks on Tatmadaw troops by resistance forces across Myanmar have given rise to suggestions of a descent into civil war, with Ethnic Armed Organisations (EAOs) touted as a “wild card” that might decide the country’s fate. However, talk of a Federal Army and comparisons to the Syrian civil war are […]



2021/78 “Commanding Right and Forbidding Wrong: The Rising Influence of Muslim Mainstream Groups” by Syafiq Hasyim


2021 No. 77

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY The banning of FPI (Front Pembela Islam) in December 2020 may have reduced the incidence of vigilante actions taken to enforce Islamic laws and norms in Indonesia. But this belies the fact that mainstream Muslim organisations such as Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah, as well as the Indonesian Ulama Council (MUI), have increasingly […]



2021/77 “ASEAN’s Climate Cooperation with China and the US: Challenges and Prospects” by Sharon Seah


2021 No. 77

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY The US is back in the international climate cooperation game, but it has a lot to catch up on to make up for the last four years when it chose not to play. The biggest climate cooperation problem facing the Biden administration is the partisan divide in the US House of Representatives and […]



2021/76 “Thailand’s Malfunctioning Political Party Funding System” by Punchada Sirivunnabood


2021 No. 76

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY In 1988, Thailand adopted measures to provide state funding for the development of political parties through the Political Party Development Fund. The fund is a double-edged sword. While it provides subsidies for the development of political parties, it also enables small and new parties to maximize their funding by setting up inactive branches […]



2021/75 “Vietnam’s Evolving Regulatory Framework for Fintech” by Dang Linh Chi and Pham Mai Nhu Thuy


2021 No. 75

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY The Vietnamese government is encouraging financial technology or fintech to promote a cashless society and extensive financial inclusion in the country. The fintech market is subject to multiple regulations issued by the State Bank of Vietnam for finance matters and the Ministry of Public Security (MPS) for data privacy and cybersecurity matters. The […]



2021/74 “A Rising China Affects Ethnic Identities in Southeast Asia” by Leo Suryadinata


2021 No. 74

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY From Zhou Enlai to Deng Xiaoping, Beijing’s policy towards Chinese overseas was luodi shenggen (to take local roots), which encouraged them to take local citizenship and integrate themselves into local society. In the 21st century, following the rise of China, this policy changed with a new wave of xinyimin (new migrants). Beijing advocated […]