Discovering Penang, Malaysia's Silicon Valley - With Balakrishnan Narayanan
Bala is a Hong Kong-based entrepreneur, he is Malaysian and he works across the entire region. I have discussed with him about the broad and topical point on how the US-China trade war is going to influence Southeast Asian countries. During previous episodes, I have dealt with the issue in a kind of broad term, but with Bala I went in-depth, and we assessed how a small Malaysian island, Penang, is going to thrive thanks to the trade war. Penang has been ruled directly by the British and since it has been a thriving trade hub in the region, surpassed only by Singapore. In the late 70s, thanks to the ability of its Chief Minister, Penang became an educational powerhouse and it started to attract big western tech companies. However, when labor costs rose in Malaysia and China started to open up its economy with Deng Xiaoping, tech conglomerates moved their operations in mainland China. Penang was left in relative decline. However, thanks to the combo of higher labor costs in China and the uncertainties of the trade war, tech companies are now starting to come back to Penang. Companies can find in the island a cluster of exceptional universities, extensive use of the English language, and trained tech managers.
Duterte is overplaying his hands with China - With Richard Heydarian
Richard Heydarian is one of the most authoritative source regarding the Philippines and Rodrigo Duterte. According to Heydarian, in the past Duterte, a local politician in Davao with zero experience in global affairs, has been capable to pragmatically shift Manila’s foreign policy away from an ironclad and rigid alliance with Washington. Duterte, differently from previous leaders, has been acute enough to understand that sometimes the Philippines’ national interests would have been better off by distancing from the US and binding more with Beijing. However, Durerte has swung too much aggressively towards China and he is not appreciating anymore the value of the US deterrence against a more assertive Chinese presence in the South China Sea.The military apparatus, obviously, is not really in tune with Duterte’s pro China stances. According to Heydarian, Duterte and his supporters are overestimating China’s assets and underestimating it’s liabilities: aging population, ecological catastrophe and structural economic slowdown. There will not be a complete collapse, as American scholars predict, but the physics of power and economics are hitting hard on China.
China has been useful for the elites in Duterte’s circle - With Carlo Fong Luy
Carlo Fong Luy is a young researcher and he has a lot to share about his country, the Philippines. As you dear listeners may have understood, I have a passion to speak about Rodrigo Duterte and his flamboyant foreign policy. According to Carlo, in order to understand Duterte, we need to depart from a rock-solid assertion: the Philippines’ politics is an oligarchy. Powerful elites control vast swaths of the country and government needs them. A pro-Chinese foreign policy lead Chinese investments that have been beneficial particularly for the elites in Duterte’s circle: Dennis Uy and Lucio Tan.
Forget about an Indian major involvement in Southeast Asia - With Gregory Poling
If Vansh Saluja was quite sure about India’s diplomatic, political and military capabilities in Southeast Asia, Gregory Poling, from the CSIS, is not sure about it. He believes that, on case of an American disengagement from the region, India will be incapable to provide any political or military reach. ASEAN has insistently asked India in the past for a major geopolitical involvement, but it never happened. At most, India will be another middle power in the region.
India has the capacity to guarantee freedom of navigation in Southeast Asia - With Vansh Saluja
Vansh Saluja is the co-founder of the Confederation of Young Leaders. He is actively promoting cultural and political exchanges between young Indian activists, policymakers and businessmen with their Chinese counterparts. He is creating bridges between two nations that just two generations ago were on the being of a catastrophic war on the Himalayan heights. However, I had a point for him: what will happen to the Indian foreign policy in case of an American security disengagement from the region, especially from South China Sea and the maritime chokepoints. Vansh l’è answer has been clearcut: despite India’ incomprehensions with some ASEAN countries, especially Malaysia over Jammu Kashmir, India will step up and make its part to guarantee the security of the maritime trade routes.
ASEAN is in fantastic shape, and the next decade will be even better – With Kishore Mahbubani
Kishore Mahbubani is a living legend when we deal with Southeast Asia, India and ASEAN. He is one the brightest mind and I had the honor of having him in my podcast. Kishore Mahbubani is a living legend when we deal with Southeast Asia, India, and ASEAN. He is one the brightest mind, and I had the honor of having him in my podcast. Kishore Mahbubani has been a supporter of a significant role of India in ASEAN, but the issue, according to his judgment, is very delicate. There are problems in the short term and great opportunities in the long term. In the short term, ASEAN got disappointed towards India because it didn’t join the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. India is domestically preoccupied with various challenges, and it can’t divert its attention to other goals. However, the history showed us that, until the 18th century, the biggest economies in the world were China and India, and only in the last two centuries the West has taken off the two Asian nations. China has come back very fast, and India will come back slowly but steadily. In 2050, China will be the first economic power, and India will be number two. Professor Mahbubani also speaks about ASEAN and how, routinely, it has been considered as a failing and declining organization. Two years ago, when Indian outperformed China, western media were jubilating. This year, despite ASEAN has slowed a bit, is performing better than India. No western media took note of it. Despite regular ups and downs, ASEAN forward trajectory has not stopped. Professor Mahbubani considers ASEAN as the second most successful international organization in the world while he believes the EU the best one. ASEAN and EU, according to Mahbubani, have a natural partnership. However, there is a caveat: EU must treat ASEAN with respect. The case of the palm oil and the various sanctions EU is targeting ASEAN countries are the brightest examples of a western organization trying to patronize over different political and economic cultures.
India will have a bright future only with better institutions – With Aaditya Dave
Aditya Dave is an Indian expat living and thriving in London. He has no doubts that India will play a future role in the world stage, but only with better and more functioning institutions. China is the present, India will be the future, only at certain conditions. India is a massive market, but currently the economic performances are sluggish. It is facing internal struggles with the Muslim factions in the north of the country, and some Muslim countries, including Malaysia, are backlashing. However, more pragmatic Gulf Countries like Saudi Arabia continue to do business in India despite the recent turmoils. Nevertheless, despite India pride itself on being the biggest democracy in the world, is far away from having effective governance. Indian democracy is still not so inclusive, and this can hamper future economic growth prospects.