Southeast Asian Affairs 2020

Southeast Asian Affairs 2020
Date of publication:  2020
Publisher:  ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute
Number of pages:  426
Code:  SEAA20
Hard Cover
ISBN: 9789814881302
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Catherine Churchman, New Zealand International Review, Vol. 45 No. 4, July/Aug 2021.

"Southeast Asian Affairs 2020 is the 47th edition of the ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute's annual review of trends and developments in South-east Asia. 

It is immediately noticeable that the main theme of the 2020 edition is the influence of the People's Republic of China in the region. The country features prominently in four of the five introductory chapters, and again in all of the remaining chapters in the various roles of investor, developer, business partner, trade war participant and/or rival territorial claimant. 

Political transitions feature as another important theme, elections and leadership changes within political parties forming the kernel of several chapters. 

...anyone looking for information on Southeast Asian foreign relations, national identities, religious affairs, internal conflict, environmental issues, infrastructure and development will find something of interest here .... The variety of the subject matter reflects the complexity and variety of the region itself, but the volume still manages to stand together as a coherent whole, and one comes away from reading it not with the feeling of having read a disparate collection of country studies, but rather with a heightened understanding of how larger global and regional trends have played out in local contexts. Much has changed within the year since its release, but as a snapshot of Southeast Asia on the cusp of great change the volume will offer valuable material for future comparisons with the Southeast Asia of the post-pandemic world."

About the publication

Southeast Asian Affairs, first published in 1974, continues today to be required reading for not only scholars but the general public interested in in-depth analysis of critical cultural, economic and political issues in Southeast Asia. In this annual review of the region, renowned academics provide comprehensive and stimulating commentary that furthers understanding of not only the region’s dynamism but also of its tensions and conflicts. It is a must read.”  
– Suchit Bunbongkarn, Emeritus Professor, Chulalongkorn University

“Now in its forty-seventh edition, Southeast Asian Affairs offers an indispensable guide to this fascinating region. Lively, analytical, authoritative, and accessible, there is nothing comparable in quality or range to this series. It is a must read for academics, government officials, the business community, the media, and anybody with an interest in contemporary Southeast Asia. Drawing on its unparalleled network of researchers and commentators, ISEAS is to be congratulated for producing this major contribution to our understanding of this diverse and fast-changing region, to a consistently high standard and in a timely manner.”
 – Hal Hill, H.W. Arndt Professor of Southeast Asian Economies, Australian National University


  • Southeast Asian Affairs 2020
    [Whole Publication, ISBN: 9789814881319], by Malcolm Cook, Daljit Singh, editors
  • Preliminary pages
  • Southeast Asia in 2019: Adjustment and Adaptation to China’s Regional Impact, by Graham Ong-Webb, author
    Trends in 2018 indicated that ASEAN regionalism was under pressure, putting into question the grouping’s role and function. In contrast, developments in 2019 reflect the independent and collective resolve of Southeast Asian states to manage external political and economic risk, which has had the effect of shoring up cohesiveness of the ten-member grouping, or at least compelling members to put aside regionally divisive issues in order to deal with common challenges. Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, ASEAN and its member states have had to adjust to the realities and impact of the ongoing US-China trade war in a bid to ensure economic development and growth. Secondly, they have sought to break out from the impasse of being sidelined in the regional power play of the United States and China. Despite adhering to a hedging strategy in dealing with China and the United States in the region’s management of major power politics, ASEAN member states have telegraphed a heightened consideration of China as both a dialogue and free-trade partner. Thirdly, a stronger consideration of China’s political and economic role in the region did somewhat mute the assertions of claimant states against China over disputed features and waters in the South China Sea for most of 2019 until the closing months of that year. Fourthly, in seeking to manage common external challenges in a united fashion, member states—as in previous years—remained unwilling to put more direct pressure on the Myanmar government for human rights violations relating to its Rohingya crisis; a problem that become internationalized since late 2017.
  • Economic Overview of Southeast Asia, by Manu Bhaskaran, author
    This chapter provides an overarching view of macro-economic trends in Southeast Asia. The current state of the regional economies is first assessed. In general, the regional economies had to face a troubled global environment but demonstrated an encouraging degree of resilience in doing so. The cyclical prospects are then considered. Two key factors will drive the outlook for next year. The first is how the global economy pans out—especially whether an improvement in the trade picture allows a recovery in business confidence and capital spending. A second factor is the impact of supportive monetary and fiscal policies. Finally, a review of developments this year which shaped key drivers of the secular regional outlook is conducted. Four key drivers are identified and are likely to be supportive of an improved growth outlook in the medium term—infrastructure spending, synergies from economic integration initiatives, production relocation out of China and an improved business eco-system.
  • The Rise of the Right: Populism and Authoritarianism in Southeast Asian Politics, by Kanishka Jayasuriya, author
    Over the last decade, there has been a trend towards a configuration of institutions and ideologies of state-society relations towards a more intensified authoritarian form. At the heart of these political changes is the rise of radical right wing political and ideological forces that seek to use religious, ethnic, and/or national communities to build coalitions which are hostile to pluralist politics. We argue that these new right-wing politics marks a crisis of forms of technocratic governance—combined with the social forces that supported it—that had underpinned neoliberal reform over the last three decades.
  • American Foreign Policy and Southeast Asia, by Daljit Singh, author
    The decline of America’s strategic and economic power is reflected in adjustments to its global policies. This has in fact been apparent since the Obama administration’s unwillingness to get involved in the Syrian conflict, and its calls for “burden sharing” and more partnerships. American primacy after World War II was a historical anomaly brought about by very special circumstances. For many years prior to the war the United States relied on a balance of power strategy to secure its interests in Asia, often in a multipolar geopolitical setting. This will likely be the direction for the future. This chapter first addresses the big change in US foreign policy, in particular policy towards China, during the Trump administration. It describes the mood in US policy circles as well as in the wider foreign policy community towards China and President Trump’s role, which is not always in tandem with that of the relevant bureaucracies and Congress. It then goes on to examine the policy towards Southeast Asia, the region’s importance to US interests, the current US “influence deficiency” in Southeast Asia and the prospects of the US augmenting its influence and standing.
  • China’s Belt and Road Initiative Financing in Southeast Asia, by Xue Gong, author
    China’s financing of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) infrastructure projects has sparked heated debates. Southeast Asian and many other BRI participating countries applaud China for taking the lead to enhance regional connectivity. However, repercussions and opposition to China’s BRI activities in both BRI participating and non-participating countries have led pundits in the region to question China’s ability to deliver the win-win solution as promised in the official BRI narrative. This chapter aims to unpack China’s patterns of investments and infrastructure financing in Southeast Asia. The research outcome will not only provide an assessment of China's project implementation but also help a wider readership identify the determinants of successful and sustainable infrastructure investment. Moreover, if China intends to rise as a provider of regional/international public goods, policymakers need to identify areas in which both China and Southeast Asian states need to improve.
  • Brunei Darussalam in 2019: Issues Revisited, by Pushpa Thambipillai, author
    It was generally a busy year for Brunei Darussalam in 2019 as it continued to focus on developmental issues while experiencing peace and political stability. Recurring concerns in economy and administration surfaced periodically in line with fresh assessments towards the one major national goal—Wawasan 2035 (Brunei Vision 2035). Except for an intense but short-lived global attention on its Syariah system of jurisprudence, Brunei’s domestic affairs was not of much concern of foreign observers. The effects of the preceding years’ reduced income from its hydrocarbon exports were still felt at the domestic economy though global prices for oil had moderately improved in early 2019. Any increase in prices for the period under study were only speculative given the uncertainty of global economic trends. Increasing down-stream hydrocarbon activities provided diversification while improved productive capacity in agriculture and agroindustry was sought. The recurring national concerns had familiar undertones—except that relevant policy makers appeared more committed to advancing the social and economic development of the state—with frequent admonishment form the Head of State and Government, Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah.
  • Cambodia in 2019: Entrenching One-Party Rule and Asserting National Sovereignty in the Era of Shifting Global Geopolitics, by Kheang Un, Jing Jing Luo, authors
    Prime Minister Hun Sen kicked off the year with the inauguration of the Win-Win Monument, constructed on the outskirts of Phnom Penh to commemorate the end of civil war in Cambodia 20 years ago and to celebrate his own achievements. In many ways, Prime Minister Hun Sen and the CPP have reason to be celebratory. The economy continued to grow sustainably at around 7 per cent, making Cambodia one of the fastest growing economies in the world. The government successfully dissolved the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) ahead of the 2018 national election without any domestic protests, transforming Cambodia into a de facto one-party state. Its international geopolitical position has strengthened with China’s political and economic support. Despite these successes, the CPP continued to face challenges to its legitimacy internationally and domestically as it embarked on further consolidation of its power. This chapter analyses three critical issues of 2019: the failed attempt to return to Cambodia by self-imposed exile Sam Rainsy and the government’s reactions to this attempt; economic developments across the year and future trends; and external relations, centring on Western countries’ concerns over recent democratic regression, the Cambodian government responses and Cambodia’s relations with China and Vietnam. The chapter concludes by examining the implications of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s initiative to address the cancer of corruption and bureaucratic incompetency, raising the challenge the government faces in implementing these reforms and the risks the ruling party might face in the absence of sustained reform.
  • Post-Election Politics in Indonesia: Between Economic Growth and Increased Islamic Conservatism, by Amalinda Savirani, author
    The year 2019 was publicly labelled an election year in Indonesia, as mammoth elections were conducted, accompanied by a media and social media frenzy that absorbed the attention of the country’s citizens. The year was also a milestone from which to look back on and reflect upon the first term of President Joko Widodo (popularly known as Jokowi), as well as to look forward to his second five-year term. In April 2019 more than 140 million citizens went to the ballot box to elect their president and vice-president, 575 members of the House of Representatives, 2,000 provincial representatives for 33 provinces, and 17,610 district and city representatives in more than 500 city and district councils. This chapter discusses Indonesian politics in 2019. It addresses the elections, Indonesia’s economic and foreign policies, and the security issues the country faced. Each of these topics will be explored in the sections that follow. Since it was an election year, the chapter will give particular focus to what happened in 2019, evaluate Jokowi’s policies between 2014 and 2019, and his plans for his second tenure. I will also explore two significant emerging political trends: the rise of conservative Islam in politics and the apparent democratic “decline”. The economic section will highlight Jokowi’s focus on economic growth and infrastructure projects, while highlighting the resulting inequality and impact on human rights. The next section will look at the continued focus on economic diplomacy in 2019 and in the coming years. And the conclusion will offer some thoughts and reflections on Indonesia’s future trajectory.
  • Social Media and the 2019 Indonesian Elections: Hoax Takes the Centre Stage, by Jennifer Yang Hui, author
    Concerns over online falsehoods (popularly called “hoax”) received outsized attention throughout Indonesia’s 2019 elections. Events such as the 212 Defend Islam Rally, past election experiences of intense political mudslinging and the 2016 U.S. presidential election have informed the nation’s perspective about hoax, seeing it as a term that imply division and could potentially tear apart the young democracy. Social media, especially encrypted platforms like WhatsApp, was used to spread hoaxes during the 2019 elections. The combination of the ability to be anonymous online, the rise of horizontal trust and the inability to critically evaluate online information meant that hoax campaigns gained traction during the election campaigning period. As terms like “buzzers” and “cyber troops/armies” were thrown about, it was clear that a climate of distrust had been established. While assessing the impact of hoaxes during the 2019 elections is challenging, overall level of trust in electoral institutions have been affected, serving as a backdrop to the worst national election-related violence to take place in Indonesia since 1999. Going forward, neither regulation of digital architecture nor cultivation of digital literacy alone is sufficient. Instead, a combination of different measures from diverse stakeholders in the society may offer a more practical solution towards resolving the challenges of hoax.
  • LAOS
  • Laos in 2019: Moving Heaven and Earth on the Mekong, by Geoffrey C Gunn, author
    While the year saw some venting of concern at official corruption in the National Assembly, remarkable in itself, it is rent-seeking activities which define the Lao People's Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) party-state. A market economy operating under a Leninist system, events in 2019 did not detract from the general trajectory of a state hellbent on the prioritization of big projects as with hydro-electricity generating dams and the Chinese built railroad, literally moving heaven on the Mekong River. Various serious human rights cases including disappearances suggest the longevity of the Lao PDR authoritarian developmental model that brooks no domestic challenge or even external scrutiny.
  • Malaysia in 2019: A Change of Government without Regime Change, by Ross Tapsell, author
    The year 2019 was potentially the most important one in Malaysia’s political history since the creation of the Federation in 1963. While the historic change in government which ended the sixty-year reign of the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition government the previous year was indeed momentous, the transition of power would have far less meaning if the promises of broader national transformation are not fulfilled by the new Pakatan Harapan (PH) government led by former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad. It would be easy, then, to highlight the various unfulfilled promises of the PH’s manifesto in order to determine 2019 as an abject disappointment for the fledgling PH government. However, to dismiss Pakatan Harapan in 2019 as a government of broken promises misses the deeper, and more important, question of why many significant reforms have not yet been pursued or implemented. Usually, when a change in government occurs after decades of rule by a singular party, the country will experience both rapid reform and political turmoil. One only has to think of Malaysia’s next-door neighbour, Indonesia, after the fall of Suharto’s New Order regime in 1998. Unlike the dramatic and violent contestations that occurred in Indonesia, Malaysia’s change of government in 2018 occurred peacefully through the ballot box. Thus, the new PH government could claim a mandate from the people to implement a list of bold promises. It also faced no post-election outbursts of racial and ethnic violence, nor regional conflict, that could have distracted it. To be sure, there were some reforms passed in Parliament in 2019, such as abolishing the draconian Anti-Fake News Law and lowering the voting age from 21 to 18. New parliamentary committees were established, with some effort to ensure parliamentary oversight of institutions such as the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission. But, for most Malaysians, 2019 felt more of the same. Why? While this will remain a puzzle for social scientists to interrogate in the years to come, this chapter will probe some possible answers by examining key political issues and events that have occurred in PH’s first full calendar year in power.
  • Malaysia and the Pursuit of Sustainability, by Serina Rahman, author
    With a new government in power, Malaysia has been saying all the right things with regards to sustainable development and environmental protection. A closer look at the details on the ground, however, reveals a number of issues and obstacles that the nation faces as it purports to pursue the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). From the difference between public pronouncements to actual action on the ground; overlaps in environmental jurisdiction and legislation between federal and state powers; to neglect of indigenous and marginalized communities—there is still much for Malaysia to work on in order to be as sustainable and inclusive as the SDGs require. Even as it works to improve a struggling economy and investment climate, the country needs to explore ways to balance economic progress with authentic sustainability; possibly through efforts to attain a circular economy or increased inclusivity and opportunities for marginalized communities to participate in economic development.
  • Myanmar in 2019: Rakhine Issue, Constitutional Reform and Election Fever, by Nyi Nyi Kyaw, author
    2019 is, perhaps, thus far the most problematic year for Myanmar’s National League for Democracy’s (NLD) government since it came to power in March 2016 after winning in a 2015 election landslide. The long-standing Rakhine issue, the initiation of a parliamentary constitutional reform process, and an early election fever are some of the key developments that dominated Myanmar’s political attention in 2019. Those high-level political events mainly involving the executive and legislative branches domestically were accompanied by growing public distrust in the judiciary and the police. All of them posed challenges for Myanmar in 2019 with considerable implications for the country’s domestic and international fronts. Economically, Myanmar was working quite well, though some challenges remained in place.
  • The 2020 Myanmar General Election: Another Turning Point?, by Ye Htut, author
    The coming elections in 2020 will be an important milestone for Myanmar. The elections of 2010 brought the Myanmar Spring under the President Thein Sein, while the elections of 2015 brought Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy (NLD) into power. The upcoming elections will be the first held under NLD government and will also be a judgement of Aung San Suu Kyi’s leadership and legacy. Opposition parties will try to harness voter dissatisfaction with the NLD. The Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), which lost the power in 2015, is reorganizing itself and replacing its older generation of leaders, including former president Thein Sein. The different ethnic parties are seeking mergers to become a single party in their respective states in order to avoid splitting the votes of their constituents as happened in the 2015 elections. On her part, Aung San Suu Kyi is also starting to address the public dissatisfaction with NLD government by removing Union Ministers and regional and state Chief Ministers.
  • The Ones Who Don’t Walk Away from the Philippines, by Lowell Bautista, author
    This chapter joins the chorus of other reviews that have described the Philippine political trajectory as heading towards greater illiberalism and the centralization of power with the executive, which undermines the integrity of democratic politics as a modus vivendi. However, as a way forward it also takes stock of Duterte’s broader policy agenda, in addition to his governance style and its corrosive impact on democratic institutions, which many writers have emphasized. The novelty of Duterte is not so much in his illiberal approach to politics but in his exclusive focus on the goal of state-building fundamentals (e.g., public order, infrastructure and services) over a values-based agenda (e.g., human rights and anti-corruption) that previous administrations have not openly challenged. As the Philippines enters its critical period of economic take-off, the reality is that it is beginning to confront more questions of “stateness”—levels of street crime, the presence of vital infrastructure, and issues of social services—which precisely reinforce the logic of Duterte’s preference for state-building concerns over high-brow, values-based reformism. This can be seen in the increasing salience of urban development issues in the Philippines’ 2019 headlines such as transportation and traffic problems, low-quality interconnectivity infrastructure, and drug proliferation over traditional news staples such as big-ticket corruption during the Arroyo administration, or coup d’etat attempts under Corazon Aquino. Such a focus is not inherently wrong, as state building fundamentals are necessary to the functioning of any society. Like the moral dilemma of citizens in Le Guin’s city of Omelas, the challenge for the Philippines is how to walk away from such an ugly, if not false, belief in a trade-off between state power and liberalism being marketed by no less than the president. The chapter concludes with two observations. First, the shift from a values-based agenda to method-agnostic state-building efforts will likely persist beyond Duterte. Exclusivist focus on intangibles or values will likely suffer electoral defeat, as the Otso Diretso slate learned in this year’s elections. Second, the current administration’s weak links in the coming years will be coalitional infighting in a bid to secure Duterte’s endorsement, and the unevenness of its efforts and accomplishments vis-à-vis its three core priority areas of infrastructure, basic services and public order. Finally, one cannot help but think that—regardless of the academic point as to whether this public sentiment will turn out to be transient or more enduring (i.e., cultural)—there is the unmistakable reality of a grass-roots demand for strong executive leadership.
  • Singapore in 2019: In Holding Pattern, by Khairulanwar Zaini, author
    Frequent travellers flying to Changi may occasionally find their aircraft caught in a holding pattern, as their flight circles the airport while waiting for clearance to land. Singapore in 2019 appears to be in a similar holding pattern as the country awaits an election that is coming sooner rather than later. Although the current parliamentary term only expires in April 2021, the Election Department’s announcement on 4 September 2019 about the formation of the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee (EBRC) was the first—and clearest—sign of an impending election.
  • The Bicentennial Commemoration: Imagining and Re-imagining Singapore’s History, by Terence Chong, author
    In early 2019 I was dinning with a Japanese diplomat in the company of two fellow Singaporeans. When the conversation turned to the Bicentennial Commemorations, the diplomat asked inquisitively, “Why do Singaporeans find it necessary to celebrate 200 years of colonialism?” After a moment’s pause the Singaporeans around the table took random stabs at answering our dinner companion’s question. Our replies ranged from the pedantic (“It’s not a celebration, it’s a commemoration”), the cynical (“It’s for the feel-good factor to help with upcoming elections”), to the dismissive (“you know Singaporeans, they love nostalgia”). As we spoke I sensed that we were ourselves struggling to understand the event as much as we sought to explain it to our Japanese friend. Like most Singaporeans, we had felt that the Bicentennial Commemorations simply did not embody the same significance or emotional heft as SG50 in 2015 when we celebrated fifty years of independence. The country’s Golden Jubilee was easier to embrace because it was an unabashed and unambiguous celebration of the nation-building project and the undeniable progress we had made as one people. But what were the Bicentennial Commemorations—or SG200—supposed to commemorate? Was it to mark the arrival of English rogue gentleman Stamford Raffles and the East India Company and, by implication, the unplugging of the island from the Malay world and its ascension into the global economy? If so then it’s understandable that the celebration of colonial capitalism and globalization did not exactly tug at the heartstrings of Singaporeans. The unthinking celebration of colonialism would also certainly be out of step with our sensibilities. Or was SG200 a knowing wink at the island’s distinction from a region still mired in its internal political and economic squabbles and thus a marker of the nation’s discrete sense of self, or what we would describe today as Singapore exceptionalism? The more we mulled over the question, the more uncertain we became. Then somewhere between the fourth and seventh cup of sake, a particular remark from one of us, I forget who, struck me - “We don’t have history so we imagine it”. Unlike ancient civilizations padded with multiple layers of epochs and ages, Singapore had but two popular dates committed to memory—1819 and 1965 (and 2004 if you want to count the year we implemented the five-day work week). But of course all societies, regardless of age and civilization, imagine their history. They tell themselves stories about who they are and where they came from, and then rewrite them over and over again. History-writing is an aspirational exercise that demands imagination. This imagination and re-imagination melds itself with the Zeitgeist of each political and ideological cycle. Singapore is no different.
  • Thailand in 2019: The Year of Living Unpredictably, by Kanokrat Lertchoosakul, author
    2019 has been another vertiginous year in contemporary Thai politics. After five years of military rule, Thailand eventually held elections in March. However, it was markedly different from earlier elections. Not only was there the unprecedented direct intervention by the royal institution in the electoral process, but the results and their consequences were full of surprises. The most popular parties, the Democrats and Pheu Thai, unexpectedly shrank in size, while a new liberal party, Future Forward, and extreme right-wing parties, led by the pro-junta Palang Pracharath, unexpectedly flourished. These unanticipated results were caused by the pro-military 2017 constitution, the inept political campaigns of the faltering parties, the high level of participation of young voters and the triumph of the junta in mobilizing its conservative base and exploiting state mechanisms for its electoral campaign. The surprises did not end there. Despite having only the second largest number of Members of Parliament (MPs), Palang Pracharath managed to hold a slim majority of 254 out of 500 seats in parliament by forming a coalition government with no less than 19 political parties. Many critics foresaw a vulnerable and short-lived government, particularly with an economic downturn and an uneasy relationship with western democracies. But after more than half a year in power, the pro-military government remains oddly unblemished. It has maintained control over its fragmented coalition, managed to pass nearly all major bills, and suppressed the political opposition.
  • Future—Forward? The Past and Future of the Future Forward Party, by James Ockey, author
    The Future Forward Party was established by Thanathorn Rungroongruangkit, a young charismatic tycoon who is new to politics. He hoped to create a new type of party, for a new style of politics free of the old patronage networks, and thus all the party candidates were also new to politics. Future Forward focused its campaign on young voters, employing social media in innovative ways to generate grassroots support. This led to a party strong at the top, where the charismatic Thanathorn proved popular, and strong at the grassroots, but with very limited infrastructure in between, and with social media providing the necessary linkages. Future Forward also took a strong position against the military in politics, ensuring close scrutiny of its actions by the junta and its successor regime. While Future Forward proved very successful in winning seats in its first attempt, the party faces potential dissolution. Should it survive dissolution, it will face the challenge of building up its mid-level infrastructure, if it is to continue its success. Although its party structure, free of patronage networks, cannot be readily duplicated by established parties, the social media-based campaign techniques it so successfully developed will likely be adapted by other parties in the future.
  • Timor-Leste: Twenty Years after the Self-Determination Referendum, by Rui Graça Feijó, author
    In August 2019, Timor-Leste celebrated the 20th anniversary of the self-determination Referendum that paved the way to independence (2002). The country organized impressive celebrations during which a point was made to stress the good level of relations both with Australia (with whom Timor-Leste signed a fundamental treaty on the frontiers between the two countries) and Indonesia. The claim that sovereignty can only be achieved when borders are clear has important consequences for the economy of the country that is reliant on the exploration of hydrocarbons in the Timor Sea. Political instability marked most of the year, with a confrontation between the President of the Republic and the government. This uncertainty was detrimental to the process of democratic consolidation, as the main actors seem to have abandoned the quest for a “common house”. It has also impinged on the economic performance of Timor-Leste. Following two years of economic contraction partly due to negative fluctuations in public spending, the year 2019 was supposed to have witnessed a change for the better, but the anticipated growth does not seem to have occurred. Finally, the Catholic Church, an important institution in the country, was institutionally reinforced as the Pope elevated the diocese of Dili to the rank of archbishopric, bringing support to the foundations of Timor-Leste national identity as a Catholic country.
  • Vietnam in 2019: A Return to Familiar Patterns, by Paul Schuler, Mai Truong, authors
    This chapter on Vietnam in 2019 reviews each of these developments. It focuses first on elite politics in the wake of the lost opportunity of 2015 and 2016. It then turns to the major issues inflaming public opinion, including the South China Sea and the environment. Finally, the chapter focuses on the structure of Vietnam’s economy and the degree to which the rising tide continues to lift all boats. In particular, it will look at whether the trade war and Vietnam’s growth has disproportionately impacted urban versus rural areas. The overarching message from this review is that while elite politics and management of dissent has returned to the pre-TPP equilibrium, social and economic changes may challenge that pattern.
  • Succession Politics and Authoritarian Resilience in Vietnam, by Nguyen Khac Giang, author
    As the Vietnamese Communist Party is heading to its 13th VCP National Congress in 2021, the chapter discusses the politics of succession in Vietnam. The author will first analyse the dilemma of the VCP when choosing the next leadership, as the 13th Congress will likely mark the end of Secretary General Nguyen Trong’s eventful era. Drawing from historical data and Party documents, the author examines the level of institutionalization in VCP’s succession politics, its norms and procedures, and the uncertainties over leadership transition in 2021. The author then compares the characteristics of Vietnam’s succession politics with China and discusses its implications for the regime’s prospect for resilience.

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