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.


2021/125 “The Quad and the Indo-Pacific: Going Slow to Go Further” by William Choong


2021 No. 125

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY In recent years, the Quadrilateral Security Grouping (Quad), and the ‘free and open’ Indo-Pacific concept that underpins it, have enjoyed forward momentum in response to growing Chinese assertiveness. The Quad has sought to gain traction in the Indo-Pacific, in particular among Southeast Asian countries, by stressing functional issues and tangibles, such as delivery […]



2021/124 “Wang Yi’s Visit to Vietnam: Reasserting Influence, Regaining Balance” by Hoang Thi Ha and Le Hong Hiep


2021 No. 124

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi paid an official visit to Vietnam on 10-12 September as part of Beijing’s efforts to reassert its influence on Vietnam and pull Hanoi back from its perceived ‘tilt’ towards Washington. Wang Yi emphasised the ideological affinity between the two countries, stepped up China’s vaccine diplomacy, and warned Vietnam […]



2021/123 “The Second Amendment to Papua’s Special Autonomy Law and the Recentralization of Power to Jakarta” by Made Supriatma


2021 No. 123

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY A second amendment comprising 20 revisions to Papua’s Special Autonomy Law was passed by the Indonesian Parliament on 15 July 2021, and signed by President Jokowi into law a week later. This was done without consultation with representatives of the Papuan people, contrary to the requirement under that same law. The People’s Representative […]



2021/122 “The Ambivalence of Heavy-Handed Debt Collection in Vietnam” by Nicolas Lainez, Bui Thi Thu Doai, Trinh Phan Khanh, Le To Linh, To Thu Phuong and Emmanuel Pannier


2021 No. 122

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Consumer finance is a thriving sector that has been growing at an annual pace of 20 percent in Vietnam. Policy-makers and financial players promote consumer finance as an antidote to black credit gangs or usurious practices. However, banks and financial companies use controversial collection practices, including threatening borrowers’ relatives, friends and employers who […]



2021/121 “China’s Vaccine Diplomacy in Malaysia: Problems and Prospects” by Peter T. C. Chang


2021 No. 121

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY China-manufactured vaccines are part of a diverse portfolio that Malaysia relies on to inoculate its population out of a devastating Covid-19 wave. But concerns over its relative effectiveness have led to China’s Sinovac being relegated to a secondary supporting role in Malaysia’s national immunization programme The downgrading notwithstanding, China’s vaccine diplomacy remains crucial […]



2021/120 “The ASEAN-China Partnership: Balancing Merits and Demerits” by Farah Nadine Seth and Sharon Seah


2021 No. 120

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY An ASEAN-China Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (AC-CSP) may be on the cards, but ASEAN fears that adopting it may be construed as taking sides. While a pragmatic analysis of what an AC-CSP would bring to the table across its three pillars of cooperation is needed, ASEAN should also consider the implications for the bloc’s […]



2021/119 “Buttressing the Anti-NLD Project: Data on the Civilian Members of Myanmar’s State Administration Council Junta” by Htet Myet Min Tun, Moe Thuzar and Michael Montesano


2021 No. 119

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY In a break with precedents set following military coups in the country in 1962 and 1988, Myanmar’s State Administration Council (SAC) junta has had civilians among its members since the time of its inception. Ten of the 19 members of the SAC are civilians, and among them, only two or three are ethnic […]



2021/118 “Malaysia’s Democratic Action Party (DAP): Background and Inner Workings” by Francis E. Hutchinson and Kevin Zhang


2021 No. 118

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Long regarded as the opposition grouping par excellence, the Democratic Action Party (DAP) is now an important player in the forming of governments in Malaysia. Its members have helmed state administrations and held key cabinet positions, and the DAP currently has 42 Members of Parliament – more than any other party. Despite its […]



2021/117 “The Russia-China Strategic Partnership and Southeast Asia: Alignments and Divergences” by Ian Storey


2021 No. 117

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Russia-China relations are at an historic high due to mutual concerns over US primacy, economic synergies and strong interpersonal ties between their national leaders. Despite deepening military cooperation and closer diplomatic coordination, a formal alliance between Russia and China is not in prospect as this would constrain their strategic autonomy and undercut key […]



2021/116 “The COVID-19 Recession: Rough Times for Young Malaysians” by Lee Hwok Aun and Kevin Zhang


2021 No. 116

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY The COVID-19 recession has exacerbated the already challenging labour market conditions for Malaysia’s youth (aged 15-24). Unemployment rose across all age groups in 2020. However, Malaysian youths have continually registered higher levels of unemployment, and also withdrew from the labour force at a rate substantially higher than for other age groups. Job losses […]