The Pan-Asia Railway, meant to stretch from Kunming to Singapore, is seen by China as one of the crown jewels of its Belt and Road Initiative. While the project has seen early success in Laos, stronger Southeast Asian countries are pushing back against Beijing’s plans.
Southeast Asians have dwindling confidence in traditional journalism. As a result, social media platforms such as Facebook and WhatsApp have become the main source of information for voters. A combination of wider access to the internet and declining trust in longstanding news sources is changing the dynamics of democracy across the region.
In Myanmar, Buddhist nationalist groups have used Facebook to swamp public opinion with anti-Muslim speech. As elected representatives are pressed to follow these extreme views, Myanmar is showing the world how unreined social media can hurt democracy.
False information sways elections, and social media makes it worse. So governments are rushing through laws to block “fake news.” But in Southeast Asia, these laws will do more harm to elections than fake news.
The leaders of the ASEAN countries are set to meet in Singapore between April 25th and 28th. With the region feeling the effects of great power competition, it might be time to remember and revive the pacifying role Southeast Asia played in trade, people, and religious exchanges over the centuries.
Almost half of the world's pirate attacks happen in Southeast Asia. Among the most common locations for attacks is the Strait of Malacca, where tankers carry oil from the Gulf region to China, Japan, and South Korea, and via Singapore's refineries. As piracy becomes more prevalent, collaboration across the ASEAN region is more necessary than ever.
Air conditioning has become an inherent part of life in the tropical heat of Southeast Asia. This incurs environmental costs and burdens low-income families with high energy bills. Energy consumption could be reduced, and societal wellbeing improved by cultivating microclimate diversity, with adapted architectural design involving passive cooling and natural shading.
Despite his questionable, often violent leadership, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte enjoys an astounding 80% approval rating. In actuality, this support is carefully weighed and highly conditional. While Duterte won the presidency by speaking to the anxieties and hopes of the citizens, he now has to deliver on his promises, and the people are keeping tabs.
As demand for documented migrant labor has risen across Asia, smugglers have been replaced with migration brokers, who utilize and manage webs of relationships to send workers abroad. With knowledge of both the intricacies of bureaucracy and the informal world of local communities, they are an essential part of the international migration infrastructure.
The age of AI and automation is upon us. This may be music to the ears of technologists, businesses, and investors, but Asia’s factory workers will be severely affected when computers and robots take over labor-intensive jobs. To help workers navigate the new economy, governments and businesses should invest in social safety net programs and education.
Their environment leaves them little space for personal expression, but Hong Kong’s domestic workers have found ways to engage in politics and pursue their own paths of leadership.