Regional Strategic & Political Studies

The Regional Strategic and Political Studies (RSPS) programme focuses on the dynamics of political change within the regional states and strategic issues in the Southeast Asian region and the wider Indo-Pacific. In particular, RSPS examines topics relating to the security and stability of the region as well as the region’s relationships with major powers. The programme organises workshops, conferences and seminars/webinars as well as produces books, articles and working papers.

The programme has two major publications. Published since 1974, Southeast Asian Affairs is regarded as a flagship publication of the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute. It provides an annual review of the politics, economies, and international relations of contemporary Southeast Asia as a region and its individual states. The collection of Southeast Asian Affairs volumes constitutes a valuable resource documenting the evolution of Southeast Asian developments from the 1970s.

RSPS also publishes the internationally-refereed peer-reviewed journal Contemporary Southeast Asia three times a year. The journal covers topics on regionalism, security and strategic affairs, domestic political developments, and international relations relevant to Southeast Asia. CSEA is listed in the most important bibliographic databases, including the prestigious Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI).

As part of above, the RSPS team are currently working on the following research topics:


China, the United States and Southeast Asia

Strategic competition has become the new paradigm of US-China relations, with consequential implications for Southeast Asia’s relations with both great powers and the security and economic well-being of regional countries. The stakes are high for Southeast Asia since both the US and China have and will continue to step up their engagement with the region as a critical component of their geopolitical contest. This project will monitor (i) US policy under the Biden administration towards China and its key allies/partners in Asia and their impact on Southeast Asia; US policy on the regional architecture, including established ASEAN-led mechanisms as well as emergent minilateral coalitions such as the Quad and AUKUS; America’s relations with Southeast Asian states; (ii) China’s engagement with Southeast Asia through various diplomatic, economic, security and military, and people-to-people channels, including the BRI, the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation and its competition with other Mekong-related initiatives, and efforts to influence ethnic Chinese communities in Southeast Asia; (iii) The opportunities and challenges for Southeast Asia in light of the US-China strategic rivalry, especially the pressure to take sides, and how regional states have responded to the changing power dynamics.

Middle Powers’ Engagement with Southeast Asia

The role of middle powers in affecting the regional balance of power and shaping regional governance is well regarded in Southeast Asia. Japan, India, the ROK and Australia are important middle powers that maintain a strong focus on Southeast Asia in their Indo-Pacific strategies and longstanding engagements with Southeast Asia. Amid the US-China rivalry, these countries’ relations with America and China are changing with important implications for their approaches to Southeast Asia. From the bilateral perspective, these countries have continued to engage Southeast Asian states on their own merits as well, although there could be differences in terms of emphasis and priorities. This project examines how the unfolding geopolitical dynamics affect these middle powers’ engagement with Southeast Asia and what are the opportunities and constraints in their efforts to strengthen ties with the region.

Maritime Security in Southeast Asia

Security in Southeast Asia’s maritime domain will increase in importance in the coming years as great power competition intensifies and non-traditional security threats such as piracy and illegal fishing persist. Competing territorial and jurisdictional claims in the South China Sea, complicated by US-China rivalry, will be the primary focus as tensions continue to rise and the parties concerned harden their positions. Major European players such as France, the United Kingdom and Germany have also stepped up their military presence in the area. The project will monitor and assess developments in the maritime space, especially in the South China Sea, including incidents at sea, power projection and legal warfare, and negotiations between ASEAN and China for a Code of Conduct. The piracy situation in the Straits of Malacca and Sulu/Celebes Sea will also be tracked.

Philippine Studies Project

Running from June 2019 to December 2023, the Philippine Studies Project receives funding support from the Philippine Government through the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Embassy of the Republic of the Philippines in Singapore. It aims to support the research capabilities and coverage of Philippine studies at ISEAS through publications and events. It also offers opportunities for both established and young scholars and experts from the Philippines to share their views and perspectives on multifaceted developments in the country. From October 2021 to June 2022, the overall theme of the Philippine Studies Project is Electoral Politics and Foreign Policy in the Philippines. The Project will also track developments related to the elections to understand the continuity and change in Philippine politics. Another area of focus would be the Philippines’ foreign policy under the new administration, especially towards the United States, China and ASEAN.


Programme Coordinators
Lee Sue-Ann (Coordinator)
Hoang Thi Ha (Co-coordinator)

Current Researchers
Ian Storey
William Choong
Lye Liang Fook
Daljit Singh
Cha Hae Won
Eugene R.L. Tan

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