Archive for February, 2011

Popular Uprisings in Southeast Asia: Is there an Egypt or Tunisia in the Region?

Southeast Asia is unlikely to see an Egyptian-style popular protest leading to regime change in the near future, though it still offers lessons to the current wave of uprisings taking place across the Middle East and North Africa, said Southeast Asia expert Catharin Dalpino at a public lecture organized by the Sigur Center for Asian Studies at George Washington University.

Catharin Dalpino, who is also an Adjunct Professor at the Elliott School of International Affairs at GWU, outlined five main reasons that the recent experience of Tunisia and Egypt will not be replicated in Southeast Asia:

  • The region is not prone to contagion effects. Historical experience shows that political disturbances in one country have had limited impact beyond borders. Even during the Vietnam War, the ripple effect extended only to Cambodia and Laos, despite what the domino theory of the time had predicted.
  • Southeast Asian countries have little in common. Whereas the Middle Eastern and North African countries generally share an anti-Western sentiment, there is no such “regional angst” in Southeast Asia, said Dalpino. In contrast, Southeast Asia is “more at peace with itself and the outside world than ever before.” However, it is possible that anti-China sentiments are brewing in the region, as seen by recent tensions over China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea, or reactions to China’s economic maneuvers throughout the region. (more…)
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Egypt and East Asia: drawing lessons from each other

By Amitav Acharya

Many people wonder if the crisis in Egypt, leading to Hosni Mubarak’s resignation on February 11, might spur similar popular upheaval for regime change in Asia. Asia has no shortage of potential candidates, including the biggest of them all: China. Then there are also Vietnam, Burma and North Korea.

In East Asia, one finds many recent assertions of ‘people’s power’ that one saw in the streets of Cairo: the Philippines in 1986 and 2001 when surging crowds ousted presidents Marcos and Estrada respectively, and Thailand in 2008, when protests ended the remnant of the Thaksin Shinawatra regime. But the situation in Asia is quite different. Asia has already seen more transitions to democracy than the Middle East. Although many Asian countries are not paragons of liberal democracy, outright dictatorships in the region have fallen in number relative to the past and to democratic or semi-democratic governments.

At 30 years, the Mubarak regime held power far longer than any regime in Asia under the same leader. The leader’s persona matters, as change of the top leader may mitigate popular anger even if the regime remains in place. China and Vietnam have replaced their top leadership before they became lightning rods for popular anger. (more…)

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Will ASEAN continue as a key player in 2030?

By Amitav Acharya

What will the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) look like in the year 2030? As a durable and successful regional grouping in the developing world, ASEAN is a force for stability and cooperation in Asia. But can we take its longevity and success for granted?

ASEAN’s irrelevance or even death has been predicted several times before. At its birth in 1967, few people thought it would live to see another decade, given that the two previous attempts at regional cooperation in Southeast Asia — the Association of Southeast Asia and the MAPHILINDO (Malaysia, Philippines and Indonesia) concept — ended within a few years after their creation.

The Malaysia-Philippines dispute over Sabah in 1969, the aftermath of the US withdrawal from Indochina in 1975, the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia in 1979, the end of the Cold War in 1991, and the outbreak of the Asian financial crisis in 1997, have all been seen as critical blows to ASEAN.

But ASEAN not only survived, it actually grew a bit stronger each time. So there is precedent, and hope, that ASEAN will be around in 2030.

But surviving is not the same as thriving. In 2030, ASEAN might keep plodding on, but will it be a key player in regional peace, stability and prosperity in Asia — a role that it currently enjoys? Here, the question becomes more difficult to answer.

The answer depends on three key questions. First, what will ASEAN’s relations be with the great powers? (more…)

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Turmoil in Egypt: Views from Japan, China, Russia, Iran and India

As Washington is closely following developments in Egypt, what are other countries saying about events in Egypt and the Middle East? Read about the domestic viewpoints in Japan, China, Russia, Iran and India:

JAPAN

The press appears preoccupied with Japan’s domestic politics, paying surprisingly little attention to events in Egypt.

 

CHINA

The Chinese government has blocked keyword searches of Egypt on the internet, while official reporting and commentary are downplaying any prospects of democratic change.

  • Color revolutions will not bring about real democracy,” runs the headline of an editorial in the Global Times. “Whether the [democratic] system is applicable in other countries is in question, as more and more unsuccessful examples arise,” says the Communist Party-sponsored English daily. (more…)
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