ISEAS Perspective 2023

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. This series undergoes a peer-review process.


2023/44 “The Power of Fantasy: Southeast Asians Develop an Obsession with Chinese Xianxia Dramas” by Gwendolyn Yap


2023 No. 44

In the past five years, a new genre of Chinese drama, xianxia (仙侠), has been rising in popularity in Southeast Asia. This genre combines Chinese mythology and culture with fantasy and action and has been very well-received by Southeast Asian audiences.



2023/43 “Move Forward Party Has Won the Election, but May Lose the Premiership Race” by Termsak Chalermpalanupap


2023 No. 43

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Move Forward Party (MFP) scored a surprise victory in the Thai general election on 14 May.



2023/42 “Southeast Asian Views on the United States: Perceptions Versus Objective Reality” by Lee Sue-Ann


2023 No. 42

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Data trends from the ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute’s State of Southeast Asia annual survey carried out between 2019 and 2023 suggest an enduring tendency among the respondents in ASEAN member states to underestimate the United States’ power and influence in the region. The respondents have overwhelmingly identified China not only as the […]



2023/41 “Vietnam’s Anti-corruption Campaign: Economic and Political Impacts” by Nguyen Khac Giang


2023 No. 41

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Vietnam’s current anti-corruption campaign, which led to the forced resignations of the state president and two deputy prime ministers in early 2023, is the most comprehensive anti-corruption effort in the history of the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV). The campaign has had some positive impacts on the economy, including reducing the informal costs […]



2023/40 “A Strategic Reset?: The Philippines-United States Alliance under President Marcos Jr.” by Aries A. Arugay and Ian Storey


2023 No. 40

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY The Philippines-United States alliance has been reinvigorated since Ferdinand Marcos Jr. was elected president in May 2022. Marcos Jr’s US policy radically departs from his predecessor given his appreciation of the Philippines’ security vulnerabilities in the South China Sea and intensified US-China rivalry in the Indo-Pacific region. Since Marcos took office, the two […]



2023/39 “Perak and Islamic Education: PAS’ Gateway to the West Coast” by Mohd Faizal Musa and Afra Alatas


2023 No. 39

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY The Islamic Party of Malaysia (PAS) baffled many when it claimed the highest number of parliamentary seats after the 15th General Election (GE) in November 2022. The numbers indicate that their influence is no longer restricted to the east coast, but that they are gradually making inroads into the west coast, as evident […]



2023/38 “Jokowi’s High Approval Ratings Make Him Potential Kingmaker” by Burhanuddin Muhtadi


2023 No. 38

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Jokowi has maintained high public approval, with a 73.1% approval rating in March 2023. The economy, perceived to be improving post-pandemic, is the primary source for his public satisfaction. President Jokowi’s approval rating reflects the public’s opinion of his administration and affects the electoral fortunes of certain political parties and candidates. However, the […]



2023/37 “Is the US a Serious Competitor to China in the Lower Mekong?” by Hoang Thi Ha


2023 No. 37

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY After decades of benign neglect, the US has increased its engagement in the Lower Mekong in the last decade, partly driven by the US-China competition. The US’ strategic intent is to enhance the Lower Mekong states’ resilience to Chinese influence by supporting their “autonomy, economic independence, good governance and sustainable growth”. Whereas China […]



2023/36 “Why Malaysia’s Unity Government Will (Probably) Survive” by Kai Ostwald


2023 No. 36

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Malaysia’s 15th general election (GE15) resulted in a grand-coalition government comprised of former arch rivals. Can the new government survive in the face of the opposition’s attempts to topple it? This Perspective argues that several stabilizing factors give the new government a strong chance of remaining in power for the foreseeable future. An […]



2023/35 “Myanmar’s “Sham” Election Threatens the 2025 Goals of the Arakan Rebels” by Kyaw Hsan Hlaing


2023 No. 35

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY After fighting the Myanmar military fiercely for two years, the Arakan Army had, by the end of 2020, established a parallel administration and military bases in Rakhine State. It seemed that “Arakan Dream 2020” was thus accomplished. While the relationship between the Rakhine political parties and the United League of Arakan/Arakan Army (ULA/AA) […]