ASEAN Lecture Series: Japan’s “New” Approaches to Southeast Asia





Japan has a long-standing presence in Southeast Asia and is a key ASEAN Dialogue Partner.  It is the region’s largest provider of foreign direct investment, second only to the EU28 states.  Nevertheless, Japan labours under a perception playing catch up to China in the wake of the latter’s charm diplomacy and Beijing’s economic ascendancy.  In response, the Abe Administration has given increased priority to Southeast Asia in an effort to booster Japan’s regional economic, political-security and diplomatic presence.  What are these new initiatives designed to cultivate new strategic relations and strengthen existing bonds?  What is the impetus driving Japan’s increased profile in the Mekong 5 countries? What security role could Japan realistically expect to undertake in the region given its domestic legal and cultural constrains?


Hitoshi Tanaka is the Chairman of the Institute for International Strategy at the Japan Research Institute, Ltd. He has also been a Senior Fellow at the Japan Center for International Exchange and a Visiting Professor at the Graduate School of Public Policy, University of Tokyo after retiring from Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan in 2005 as Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs. In the Foreign Ministry Mr. Tanaka held various posts which include Director-General of the Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau (2001–02) and the Economic Affairs Bureau (2000–01); Consul-General in San Francisco (1998–2000); and Deputy Director-General of the North American Affairs Bureau (1996–98). Mr. Tanaka holds a B.A. in law from Kyoto University and B.A./M.A. in PPE from Oxford University. He writes various articles both in Japanese and English including East Asia Insights.


To register, please complete this reply form and return it by fax: 6775-6264 or email: by 22 September 2015.


ASEAN Roundtable 2015 – ASEAN Community 2015: Expectations and Realities





ASEAN will announce an integrated community by the end of 2015.  This announcement is the culmination of regional integration efforts since the elaboration of the ASEAN Vision 2020 statement in 1997.  The success of the ASEAN Community is premised upon how regional collaboration will link together the different aspirations in the political, economic and social spheres, which ASEAN has named the ASEAN Political Security Community (APSC), the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), and the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC).

With the date for announcing this integrated community imminently approaching, it is timely to “look back to look forward” by seeking the views and suggestions of persons and entities deeply involved in the ASEAN community-building process through its successive stages.

  • ASEAN’s push for expansion of ASEAN membership, and the enunciation of the ASEAN Vision 2020 for a seamless and connected community of nations in Southeast Asia;
  • The measures undertaken by ASEAN in the financial and economic sectors to remain relevant and recover from the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis that swept through the region;
  • The decision to move for a more rules-based and coherent organization, by revisiting a long-standing proposal for the ASEAN Charter, and the subsequent moves to address human rights issues relevant to regional cooperation, and engage in a more meaningful way with civil society in the region;
  • The different challenges posed to ASEAN’s central role and the tensions of maintaining ASEAN’s unity of purpose at the regional level with individual (national) interests of each ASEAN member state; and
  • The emerging cross-cutting priorities that require ASEAN integration – especially regional economic integration – to be contextualized and communicated as a coordinated exercise.

The ASEAN Roundtable 2015 will 1) provide an update on the issues surrounding ASEAN’s community-building goals beyond 2015; and 2) bring together different perspectives on, and discuss ways and means of addressing these cross-cutting priorities as well as the implications of pursuing these priorities.

Key discussions and recommendations from the Roundtable will be synthesized into a policy-relevant monograph.

Panelists and participants envisaged for this year’s Roundtable include past and present Secretaries-General of ASEAN[1], and a representative mix of policy, business and research expertise dealing with different aspects of ASEAN cooperation.

The Roundtable is supported by the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS).

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[1] These are the Secretaries-General who have been accorded the rank of minister and the expanded role and responsibilities to represent and coordinate ASEAN cooperation, as determined in 1992. 

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Seminar: Awareness and Attitudes towards ASEAN: Updated Findings from a Ten-Nation Survey of University Students in ASEAN




The ASEAN Studies Centre at ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute will organise a seminar to share the findings from an update of a survey on undergraduates’ awareness of and attitudes towards ASEAN.  The seminar is held in conjunction with the 48th ASEAN Day reception hosted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Singapore.

The findings are an update of a first survey undertaken in 2007 among university undergraduates in the ten ASEAN member states. The updated survey, which was carried out in 2014-15 among the same target population, has an expanded scope in measuring several dimensions of students’ knowledge about and orientations towards ASEAN.  Preliminary findings have highlighted that overall, there are more ASEAN-positive attitudes among young educated citizens in the region.

Dr Eric Thompson, the project’s lead investigator will present key findings of the updated survey, including findings on a nation-by-nation basis and a general summary of region-wide trends and what they suggest for the prospects of ASEAN integration beyond 2015.


Eric C. Thompson is Associate Professor and Chair of Graduate Studies in the Department of Sociology at the National University of Singapore. Before joining NUS, he completed a PhD in sociocultural anthropology at the University of Washington and was a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Southeast Asian Studies, University of California Los Angeles.

Eric teaches anthropology, gender studies, urban studies and research methods. He has conducted research for over two decades throughout Southeast Asia, primarily in Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Indonesia. His research interests include transnational networking, gender studies, urbanism, culture theory, and ASEAN regionalism.

His work has appeared in journals such as American Ethnologist, Asian Studies Review, Citizenship Studies, Contemporary Sociology, Contemporary Southeast Asia, Field Methods, Gender Place and Culture, Global Networks, Political Geography, Urban Studies, and Women’s Studies International Forum among others. He is author of Unsettling Absences: Urbanism in Rural Malaysia (NUS Press, 2007) and Attitudes and Awareness toward ASEAN: Findings of a Ten-Nation Survey (with Chulanee Thianthai, ISEAS, 2008).



4.00 pm:          Registration

4.30 pm:          Opening Remarks by Mr Tan Chin Tiong, Director, ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute

4.35 pm:          Presentation of Survey Update Findings by Dr Eric C. Thompson, Project Lead Investigator

5.15 pm:          Q & A

6.00 pm:          End of Seminar


This event is open for registration on a first-come, first-served basis.

Admission to the seminar will be taken as confirmed upon receiving written acceptance from the Institute.

To register, please complete this form and return it by fax: 6775-6264 or email: or by 12 noon on Monday, 24 August 2015.


Seminar: The ASEAN Community 2015: What Does it Denote?