Deep in the SEA
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.
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.