Trends in Southeast Asia 2024

The Trends in Southeast Asia series serves as in-depth analysis of contemporary geopolitical and socio-economic forces in the region. The series is written for policymakers, diplomats, scholars and students of the region with emphasis on empirical and observable trends, and less on theory-building or historical accounts of events.

The aim of Trends is to offer concrete accounts of the dynamism in the region as transnational processes impact local communities, national governments as well as bilateral and foreign relations. Subjects that are of interest to the series are national elections; economic patterns and growth; demographic changes and their social implications; migratory patterns; religious and ethnic trends; bilateral relations and geopolitics in the region in relation to the larger powers of Japan, China and the US. This series undergoes a peer-review process.


“Shifting to a Higher Gear: The Saga of Malaysia’s National Carmaker Proton” by Pritish Bhattacharya and Francis E. Hutchinson


Proton has been a vital part of Malaysia’s industrialization journey and a key pillar of its modernization drive.


“Scrutinizing the DAP’s Success in the 2023 Malaysian State Elections” by Ong Kian Ming


Using granular polling station and polling stream data for forty-seven seats contested by the Pakatan Harapan (PH) member Democratic Action Party (DAP), this paper explores the effect of this relationship on voter support. This Trends in Southeast Asia finds that, contrary to expectations, DAP actually gained voter support from campaigning with UMNO.


“ASEAN Post-2025: Reimagining the ASEAN Economic Community” by Julia Tijaja, Simon Tay and Sanchita Basu Das


ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) building is a long journey. For continued relevance and impact, the AEC must remain dynamic while taking into consideration evolving contexts and emerging opportunities and challenges.


“Prosperity or Predicament? Decoding Certification Challenges in Malaysia’s Palm Oil Industry” by Serina Rahman and Lee Poh Onn


Sabah is used as an illustrative case study of an effective approach for statewide certification using both the Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) and Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) schemes.


“How Thailand’s Move Forward Party’s Fandom Strategy Shaped the 2023 General Election” by Alexandra Colombier


The strategies involved in achieving celebrity status for Thai politicians are varied. This paper provides a case study of the factors behind the success of Pita Limjaroenrat and the Move Forward Party and contrasts these with reasons why Pita's key political opponents were less effective.


“China’s Cultural Diplomacy in Indonesia: The Case of a Transnational Singing Contest” by Chang-Yau Hoon and Ardhitya Eduard Yeremia


This article examines Chinese cultural diplomacy in the realm of entertainment, specifically “The Melody of Spring: Transnational Spring Festival Gala” hosted in Nanning, Guangxi, and disseminated globally each Chinese New Year.


“Enhancing ASEAN’s Role in Critical Mineral Supply Chains” by Sharon Seah and Mirza Sadaqat Huda


The clean energy transition momentum is gathering pace globally, and in Southeast Asia as well. The transition is dependent on an uninterrupted supply of critical minerals and metals that are essential for the production of low-carbon technologies.


“China as a Rising Norm Entrepreneur: Examining GDI, GSI and GCI” by Manoj Kewalramani


This paper discusses Chinese President Xi Jinping’s flagship global initiatives’ normative implications for the world order.


“TIMOR-LESTE IN ASEAN: Is It Ready to Join?” by Joanne Lin, Sharon Seah, Sithanonxay Suvannaphakdy and Melinda Martinus


An assessment of Timor-Leste’s ability to fulfil its commitments and obligations reveals that the country will need to close the gap with the ten existing members on matters such as the ratification and implementation of legally binding agreements and derivative work plans. Creating enforcement mechanisms and finding ways to implement commitments at the local level will be important.