southeast asia

September 22, 2011

With the emergence of a Chinese middle class, and the increasing liberalisation of public expression in various parts of South East Asia, we find ourselves entering into an era of what could, and should, be increasing cultural exchange with our immediate neighbourhood.

Despite its size, Indonesia is distinctly lacking in hard-power assets. The source of Indonesia’s influence is soft power, which it has used to create regional institutions such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to promote regional stability and pursue its key strategic objective of ensuring that Southeast Asia never fall under the hegemony of an outside power.

China also began to actively practice soft power around the world, making investments in Africa, Asia, Australia and Latin America. Those investments not only made economic sense but also benefitted the local economy and made friends with a vast number of people.

China is taking note. It has begun flying Indonesia's Islamic scholars to China on study tours in order to show how Muslim minorities thrive in China, despite its official atheism. It's the kind of public diplomacy that the US has used for decades to burnish its image, so it's hardly surprising that China is doing the same.

Mr. Aquino’s visit highlights China’s successful use of soft power to build relationships based on inducements and gestures of goodwill rather than aggression and interference in domestic affairs. China’s success is evident in turning Southeast Asia into a peaceful and prosperous backyard that allows it to concentrate on modernizing its economy.

The term "soft power" refers to using warships for humanitarian purposes, such disaster relief, which had not been a Chinese capability . Now it has recently built a... hospital ship and... Landing Platform Dock helicopter landing ship — both of which deployed to Middle East nations in 2010.

Beijing's strategic plan to dominate Vietnam, the intellectuals assert, is already well-advanced, to the point that the economy is virtually under Chinese control and Chinese ‘soft power' has corrupted the nation's political life.

SINGAPORE --- “Just turn on the faucet.”

That’s the answer most Americans and others in the developed world would give if asked how to get plenty of clean water. But for about two billion people, such a response is meaningless. These people – almost a third of the world’s population – do not have access to water that can be drunk without adverse health effects. An even greater number lack access to adequate sanitation, which is a principal reason that more than two million children die of diarrheal diseases each year.