Brexit and the election of Donald Trump have shocked political and economic elites throughout Asia. For the last decades, the Asian development largely depended on open world markets and the presence of a US security umbrella. A first harbinger of what is yet to come is the suspension, if not de facto cancellation, of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP). Without a majority in the US Congress the TPP, at least in its current form, is dead. And that is rather likely.
A decade after former US Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick urged China to become a “responsible stakeholder” (Zoellick 2005) in the international system, China started its so far biggest multilateral initiative, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). Early this year the bank opened for business and started to approve its first projects in Central, South and Southeast Asia
On 31 October 2016, the Institute of Security and International Studies (ISIS Thailand) organized the Public Forum titled “What’s AIIB All About? China, Asia and A Contested Global Order” in cooperation with Heinrich Böll Stiftung Southeast Asia (hbs) and Chulalongkorn University. The event hosted speakers from a variety of backgrounds to comment on the report “Making Inroads: Chinese Infrastructure Investment in ASEAN and Beyond”, authored by Mark Grimsditch of Inclusive Development International (IDI) with the support of hbs.
Pundits have been keen to predict that Southeast Asia will soon leave behind its authoritarian past and head toward a more democratic future. This optimism was boosted in 2010 by Myanmar’s decision to “transition” to democracy, allowing for elections and assigning a role to the opposition.
Civil society space is under attack worldwide. In her welcoming speech to the Global Perspectives Conference, Barbara Unmüßig urged 160 representatives of civil society organisations from around the globe to stand in solidarity with each other and to put the issue of shrinking and closing spaces back on the political agenda.