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Seminar on ASEAN and Southeast Asia's Relations with China: Moving with the Times


The seminar on “ASEAN and Southeast Asia’s Relations with China: Moving with the Times” was held on 17 November 2017 at ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute.

The speakers were Professor Zhu Feng, Executive Director of China Center for Collaborative Studies of the South China Sea at Nanjing University and Director of the Institute of International Studies, Nanjing University; Professor Dewi Fortuna Anwar, Distinguished Visiting Professor at RSIS; Professor Xue Li from the Institute of World Economics and Politics, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences; and Mr Daljit Singh, Senior Research Fellow at ISEAS and Coordinator of the Institute’s Regional Strategic and Political Studies Programme. More than 100 people attended the seminar. They were from foreign embassies based in Singapore, academic institutions and think tanks, government departments and interested members of the broader public.

From Left to Right: Prof Zhu Feng, Prof Dewi Fortuna Anwar, Dr Tang Siew Mun, Prof Xue Li, and Mr Daljit Singh (Source: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)

Prof Zhu Feng argued that international rules and international order must be based not just on law but also on power realities because the power realities have changed with the rise of China and so the current international rules, which were established during a period of western dominance, need to be modified to take into account China’s interests. The two Southeast Asian speakers traced the history of China-Southeast Asia relations, the extensive cooperation that has developed as well as the increase of unease, even anxiety, among Southeast Asian countries in recent years over China’s assertive policies and actions in the region. Prof Anwar urged China not to try to divide ASEAN and not to look at Southeast Asia just through the prism of US-China relations. Mr Daljit Singh felt that although Southeast Asia-China relations has advanced a great deal, China’s assertiveness has adversely affected the overall atmosphere.

The audience during the presentation (Source: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)

There was a lively Q&A session. Questions were directed more at the Chinese speakers, in particular on Prof Zhu Feng’s point that international rules must also reflect power realities.