Malaysian Foreign Policy under Anwar: Performance, Identity and the Politics of Survival


About the Hybrid Seminar

For decades, Malaysian foreign policy has been anchored on three pillars: proactive regionalism with its Southeast Asian neighbours and ASEAN-plus partners; prudent equidistance vis-à-vis the big powers; and pragmatic statecraft towards Muslim, non-aligned, and/or developing countries across the Global South. Under the present Anwar Ibrahim administration, the need to cope with external uncertainties and domestic political exigencies has deepened Malaysia’s active macro-neutrality, while widening its inclusive but selective micro-multilayered partnerships across domains with players near and far.

Anwar’s more active and visibly confident diplomacy has brought Malaysia back to regional and international attention. It has restored a degree of internal stability and arrested downward trends since February 2020 (when a backdoor power grab kick-started rounds of political infighting and government changes), while raising external hopes and anticipation as Malaysia prepares to assume its ASEAN Chairmanship in 2025.

This seminar unpacks the factors driving and limiting the Anwar administration’s active, inclusive and selective foreign policy postures. It argues that while the style of Malaysia’s foreign policy has been coloured by Anwar’s personality, its substance has been motivated and constrained primarily by structural and domestic reasons. A proactive and prudently inclusive foreign policy is needed for mitigating the multiple systemic risks surrounding the US-China rivalry, but also for maximising the concrete benefits needed to boost the Anwar-led Unity Government’s political survival at home, with an eye to winning Malaysia’s next general election.

About the Speaker

Dr Kuik Cheng-Chwee is Professor of International Relations at the Institute of Malaysian and International Studies (IKMAS), National University of Malaysia (UKM).


This is a hybrid event which will be held at ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute (ISEAS).

Attending the Event In-person at ISEAS

To join the event in-person at ISEAS, please register via the ISEAS mobile app, available on iOS and Android via the Apple or Play store. Search “ISEAS” to find or scan this QR code.

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Seating capacity is limited. Do register early to avoid disappointment.

Attending the Event Virtually via Webinar

To join the event virtually at the specified date and time using your internet devices, please register here to receive your unique login link for the webinar via the zoom platform.

If you have questions for the speaker, please key in your questions via the Q&A, stating your name and affiliation. The moderator will field them to the speakers during the Q&A session.


Jul 16 2024


10:00 am - 11:15 pm

More Info



ISEAS Seminar Room 2 / Webinar