Want to hear about the latest developments and prospects for U.S.-Southeast Asia ties? Tune in to our podcast as we explore these topics with our network of regional experts.
Engaging the Eagle is the official podcast by the U.S. Programme in the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies, RSIS, NTU, Singapore. The views expressed in this podcast are the speakers’ own and do not represent the official position of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), NTU.
Episode 7: U.S.-Myanmar Ties in 2023
The United States and Myanmar have a long and storied history of bilateral ties. 10 years ago, ties appeared to be on the mend, with visits to the country by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama followed by the easing of sanctions. In recent years, however, the relationship has been defined by two crises: the Rohingya Crisis that erupted in 2017, and the February 2021 Coup that deposed the democratically elected members of the country’s ruling party, the National League for Democracy (NLD). In response to the crises, the U.S. doubled down on targeted sanctions against Myanmar officials. President Joe Biden’s administration has also made it clear that it does not recognise Myanmar’s current regime, and even downgraded its ties in December 2022 by not replacing the then-incumbent ambassador.
The prospects for a rapprochement between Washington and Naypyidaw seem dim. However, from online social movements in support of the anti-junta forces to U.S. support for ASEAN’s position on the Myanmar crisis, there are many interesting elements of the relationship to discuss. Join us for this exciting episode of Engaging the Eagle as we delve into these issues.
Bonus Episode 1: Threatening National Security or Bridging the Digital Divide? A Case Study of Huawei’s Expansion in Brazil
China’s digital footprint has been expanding rapidly in Latin America in the last two decades. Neither the U.S.-China tech war nor the U.S.-led global campaign aimed at Chinese tech firms seemed to be able to reverse the trend. Much of the policy discussion in the western media surrounding China’s digital expansion focuses on the supply side, emphasizing the potential risks of adopting Chinese technologies. Yet there remains scant research on the demand side—namely, how policymakers in developing countries perceive Chinese tech firms and how they maneuver amid the intensifying rivalry between the U.S. and China.
Why did Chinese tech firms become key telecommunication equipment providers for Latin America despite geopolitical headwinds? To shed light on the issue, Dr. Jin (Julie) Zeng examines local stakeholders’ perceptions of Chinese tech firms and their choices between development and national security. Using Brazil as a case study, she argues that corporate strategies (emphasizing quality, prices, services, and financing), as well as the pragmatic approaches of regulators and internet service providers (ISPs) enable Chinese tech firms to expand market shares in Brazil. Instead of securitizing Chinese technologies, Brazilian regulators and ISPs have been eager to bridge the digital divide and benefit from the fierce competition among global tech firms.
Ask USP Episode 5 - What does a Government Shutdown Mean for US Foreign Policy?
On October 1, the U.S. government narrowly avoided a government shutdown by passing a continuing resolution, a type of stopgap spending bill that funds federal agencies at 2022 levels for 45 days. The U.S. is one of the few political systems in the world in which federal agencies cannot spend or obligate any money without an appropriation or approval from Congress – in other words, if Congress fails to pass 12 annual appropriation bills, the government will shut down, as it has 10 times over the past 4 decades. Yet the danger is not past yet. There are concerns that the gesture may only have delayed an inevitable shutdown, especially after Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-California) was ousted from his role as House Speaker. Moreover, the glaring absence of aid for Ukraine in the continuing resolution has raised worries about the U.S. commitment to the country, and about U.S. foreign policy at large as Washington continues to be beset by domestic woes.
Episode 6: Seeking Centrality - U.S.-ASEAN Ties in 2023
U.S.-ASEAN ties have been in the spotlight since news emerged that U.S. President Joe Biden would not be attending the 43rd ASEAN Summit in Jakarta. While the U.S. has repeatedly affirmed in strategic documents and public statements alike that it supports ASEAN centrality, the absence of its Chief Executive at the grouping’s main Summit casts a pall over its approach to the region. In fact, given how Washington seems to be advancing its ties with individual ASEAN states such as Vietnam and the Philippines instead of the overall grouping, there are questions about Washington’s commitment and approach to ASEAN, especially as it enters an election year in 2024.
Join us as we discuss the state of U.S.-ASEAN ties in this episode. Beyond discussing developments during the ASEAN Summit, we will also cover the mutual frustrations of the two parties, ASEAN’s response to great power competition, and the prospects for U.S.-ASEAN ties as we go into 2024.
Episode 5: U.S.-Singapore Ties in 2023
Singapore, the tiny island-state in Southeast Asia, has a close relationship with the United States. Singapore is Washington’s largest trade partner in Southeast Asia, while Washington is the republic’s largest foreign investor. The two also share close security ties, with US forces allowed to access Singapore’s air and naval bases on a rotational basis since 1990. The two are frequent participants in joint exercises and are also exploring cooperation in emerging and novel areas such as cybersecurity and blockchain payments.
The strength of the US-Singapore relationship is beyond doubt – however, a more interesting question concerns the limits and future of this relationship. While Singapore has benefitted greatly from the US-led international order, it is also a close partner with China, and its leaders have increasingly warned of the dire implications of disruptive trends such as decoupling between the US and China. As tensions rise, it is unclear how Singapore will adjust its approach to its ties with Washington and Beijing.
Episode 4: Assessing IPEF - Promise, Priorities, Prospects
After the U.S. pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF) was styled as the new anchor of U.S. trade policy in the region, with the lofty ambition of establishing the “rules of the road” for regional trade. For the most part, however, it has yet to match this ambition with substance. Beyond a supply chain agreement and an agreement to launch a framework for cooperating on hydrogen technologies, IPEF has yet to provide concrete deliverables for its members.
Some observers have noted that IPEF is not a traditional trade deal and should not be judged like one. However, the fact remains that without a new economic anchor, Washington risks ceding its leadership on trade issues and over-securitising its relationship with regional governments. Even as Washington expresses hope that a broader deal will be announced at the APEC summit in November, the stakes remain high.