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Our Region (Spotlight Brief 1/21)

23 March 2021
Spotlight Brief
Australian Aid cargo on the deck of an Australian LHD

Australian Army Research Centre Spotlight Briefs provide a periodically released curated overview of issues relevant to Australian Landpower. Spotlight Briefs derive solely from available open source material. Inclusion of material in a Spotlight Brief does not imply or reflect Australian Army, Australian Defence Force or Australian Commonwealth Government policy.

The below is a focus on the ‘Our Region’ section of Spotlight Brief No. 1, 2021, which can be viewed fully here.

Vietnam and the search for security leadership in ASEAN

Source: Asian Security – Jun 20

The ASEAN states lie astride the fulcrum of the Indo-Pacific region. That fact, their proximity to our continent, historical ties, and increasing trade and people linkages make ASEAN of vital regional interest to Australia. The authors examine the possibility of emergent security sectorial leadership from Vietnam within ASEAN.  As Vietnam grows in importance within the region, and its emergence as a stakeholder continues, its role with ASEAN may increase. An example is Vietnam’s efforts in the raising of the ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting Plus (which includes Australia). Understanding regional security concerns and ASEAN nation’s strategic goals can help Australia further develop the engagement and strong partnerships which support Australian and regional partner interests.

Further reading:

‘Vietnam’s Virtual Charm Offensive’, The Diplomat, 01 Nov 2020

‘Vietnam steps up to take ASEAN leadership role’, The Strategist, 05 Aug 2020

‘Vietnam Steps Up to Take ASEAN Leadership Role’, Foreign Policy, 31 Jul 2020

‘Vietnam confirms position and role in ASEAN’, Communist Party of Vietnam Online Newspaper, 24 Jul 2020

‘Vietnam has many contributions to ASEAN solidarity and development’, Korea IT Times, 18 Jun 2019

The 2019 Presidential Election and the BRI’s Prospects in Indonesia

Source: China Quarterly of International Strategic Studies – 2020

Australian Diplomat Walter Crocker presciently noted in a 1956 dispatch from Jakarta: ‘The emergence of China as the major regional power and its growing impact on Australia’s neighbourhood was a fact “as inescapable as the weather”’. He further observed ‘Geography had decreed that Indonesia lay between Australia and the Sinic (sic) world’. For these, and other reasons, Australia remains deeply interested in both nations and their bi-lateral relations. In this article the author, an Associate Professor at Universitas Gadjah Mada in Yogyakarta, assesses the likely arc of bilateral relations between China and Indonesia during Joko Widodo’s second term as Indonesia’s President. He asserts there is pragmatism driving closer economic cooperation between Indonesia and China. This is evident in the 66 bilateral agreements covering various areas of cooperation, including infrastructure, science and technology, culture, law enforcement, tourism, education, health, environment, and anti-terrorism signed between Jakarta and Beijing. However, it would be wrong to expect Jakarta will cede to China on ‘long-standing thorny issues [such] as maritime disputes and anti-Chinese sentiments’. The article concludes contemporary Indonesia is better able to pursue a ‘free and active’ foreign policy commensurate with its size and location than in previous eras.  Understanding the various nuances in the Indonesia – China relationship, is useful to guide our ongoing engagement with both nations.

Further reading:

‘China’s BRI in some ASEAN countries: Indonesia’s Global Maritime Fulcrum’, Belt and Road – Europe, 07 Feb 2021

‘For Indonesia, Chinese 5G Cooperation Brings Promise and Peril’, The Diplomat, 20 Jan 2021

‘Indonesia Invites China as Investor For Extended High-Speed Railway’, Radio Free Asia, 19 Jan 2021

‘Indonesia to focus on economic and health cooperation, seek support from China on regional stability’, Global Times, 18 Jan 2021

‘Off the rails – Indonesia's Belt and Road rail mess’, Financial Review, 24 Sep 2020

The views expressed in this article and subsequent comments are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Australian Army, the Department of Defence or the Australian Government.

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