Southeast Asia

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Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines, and Malaysia form the bulk of Southeast Asia, a region that has experienced significant economic development in recent decades but also faces ethnonationalism and security concerns. RAND has investigated these issues as well as the region's relations with the United States, the former Soviet bloc countries, China, and Japan.

  • A man welding outdoors in Jakarta, Indonesia

    Journal Article

    Rethinking Indonesia's Informal Sector

    Apr 18, 2016

    Indonesia's informal labor sector accounts for a significant portion of total economic activity. New data shows most informal firms in Indonesia are small, relatively unproductive, and do not want to expand or pay taxes.

  • Soldiers of China's People's Liberation Army Navy patrol at Woody Island, in the Paracel Archipelago, which is known in China as the Xisha Islands, January 29, 2016

    Commentary

    Beijing Ups the Ante in South China Sea Dispute with HQ-9 Deployment

    Mar 29, 2016

    China's recent deployment of HQ-9 missiles to the Paracel Islands signals its determination to consolidate its gains in the South China Sea, regardless of criticism by the United States and its allies.

Explore Southeast Asia

  • Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence hold a bilateral meeting in Singapore, November 14, 2018

    Commentary

    Vietnam's Defense Policy of 'No' Quietly Saves Room for 'Yes'

    U.S.-China tensions are rising in the South China Sea. Washington should take solace in the fact that Vietnam's “Three Nos” policy actually offers significant breathing room for defense cooperation.

    Jan 21, 2019

  • Former Khmer Rouge leader Nuon Chea is seen on a television screen as he waits for a verdict in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, November 16, 2018

    Commentary

    Does Nuon Chea Still Have No Regrets?

    Nuon Chea was convicted of genocide in a tribunal in Phnom Penh in November for his role in the Cambodian genocide. Shelly Culbertson relays the story of her trip to interview him at his home in Pailin in 2003.

    Dec 19, 2018

  • China's Liaoning aircraft carrier with accompanying fleet conducts a drill in an area of South China Sea, December, 2016

    Commentary

    The Quad Needs Broadening to Balance China—And Now's the Time to Do It

    Even in its resurrected form, the Quad could be in danger of failing to achieve its mission. The Quad might consider getting its house in order by extending dialogue partnerships to ASEAN maritime counterclaimant states.

    Oct 22, 2018

  • China with sunset on Earth

    Report

    China's Engagement with the Developing World

    Engaging with developing countries offers China economic growth and global influence. What are the consequences of Beijing's strategy toward the developing world for the United States?

    Oct 16, 2018

  • Journal Article

    Assessing Recent Developments in Indonesian Maritime Security

    Despite a daunting set of maritime challenges, Indonesia has placed renewed emphasis on maritime security governance.

    Oct 16, 2018

  • Malaysian and Vietnamese fishing boats are destroyed for illegal fishing by the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, police and navy, in Batam, Riau Islands, Indonesia, April 5, 2016

    Commentary

    Assessing Recent Developments in Indonesian Maritime Security

    Despite a daunting set of maritime challenges, Indonesia has placed renewed emphasis on maritime security governance. While the programs in place may take decades to bear fruit, Indonesia is on the path to securing the waterways and infrastructure so key to its overall economic development.

    Oct 12, 2018

  • A Vietnamese floating guard station on the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, April 12, 2010

    Commentary

    Deciphering Vietnam's Evolving Military Doctrine in the South China Sea

    Vietnam has sought to balance China's expanding presence in the South China Sea through diplomacy and military modernization. The Vietnam People's Army has acquired many useful weapons, but unfamiliarity with combat in the sea and air will test its evolving military doctrine.

    May 11, 2018

  • The Eiffel tower is illuminated in green with the words "Paris Agreement Is Done" to celebrate the Paris U.N. COP21 Climate Change agreement in Paris, France, November 4, 2016

    Report

    U.S. Policy in Asia Under the Trump Administration

    A conference on U.S. policy in Asia explored the arenas of U.S.-Asia engagement, developed an understanding of the outcomes of past interaction, and made the case for the terms of future engagement. Topics included climate change, trade and investment, national security, human rights, and macroeconomic issues.

    Apr 18, 2018

  • Report

    A Preliminary Assessment of Indonesia's Maritime Security Threats and Capabilities

    This study identifies the threats and priority areas for Indonesia in the maritime security domain as a first step in an overall assessment of capability requirements and gaps.

    Apr 18, 2018

  • A Chinese Coast Guard ship (top) and a Vietnam Marine Guard ship in the South China Sea, about 130 miles away from Vietnam, May 14, 2014

    Commentary

    Vietnam's Remarkable Month of Balancing Against China in the South China Sea

    Vietnam has engaged in a string of activities to strengthen deterrence against China in the South China Sea. But Hanoi's push to deepen external defense ties with states that can help its cause won't necessarily translate into greater risk-taking in the region.

    Mar 26, 2018

  • A cityscape of Shanghai

    Content

    The RAND Center for Asia Pacific Policy

    The RAND Center for Asia Pacific Policy improves policy by providing decisionmakers and the public with rigorous, objective, cutting-edge research on critical policy challenges facing Asia and U.S.-Asia relations.

    Mar 14, 2018

  • Vietnamese military members march during an honor guard ceremony at the Ministry of Defense in Hanoi, Vietnam

    Journal Article

    Can Vietnam's Military Stand Up to China in the South China Sea?

    This article examines Vietnam's warfighting capabilities for defending its disputed claims with China in the South China Sea.

    Feb 22, 2018

  • Shi'ite Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) members hold an Islamic State flag, which they pulled down, during the war between Iraqi army and PMF against Islamic State militants in Tal Afar, Iraq, August 27, 2017

    Commentary

    Expanding the ISIS Brand

    Since its founding, the Islamic State has consistently expanded and contracted in order to achieve its objectives. To discern how ISIS might continue to expand, it makes sense to trace Al Qaeda's trajectory, which followed a similar pattern in the 2000s.

    Feb 19, 2018

  • Residents who returned from evacuation centers walk past a bullet-ridden house believed to have been rented by pro-Islamic State militant group leaders before their attack on the region, in Basak Malutlut district in Marawi City, Philippines, October 29, 2017

    Commentary

    Where Will ISIS Seek to Establish Its Next Safe Haven?

    Many of ISIS's surviving fighters will seek out new battlefields to continue waging jihad. By coordinating with its allies around the globe, the U.S. could work to help alleviate the conditions that lead states to fail, making them less appealing as sanctuaries where terrorists can rest, rearm, and recuperate.

    Feb 19, 2018

  • American soldiers and Vietnamese civilians in a village during the Vietnam War in October 1967 in Vietnam

    Commentary

    Book Review: 'Eye Corps: Coming of Age at the DMZ'

    In reviewing a book his mentor wrote about coming of age in Vietnam, Dan Grunfeld says the story is "powerful, thoughtful and engaging. ... The hard and expensive lessons of Walker's youth led to a big-hearted life, full of wisdom and generosity that touched so many."

    Jan 5, 2018

  • A Rohingya refugee looks at the moon with a child in tow at Balukhali refugee camp, Bangladesh, December 3, 2017

    Commentary

    How the U.S. Can Help Resolve the Rohingya Crisis

    By accepting responsibility for reintegrating the Rohingya refugees, Myanmar has provided an opening to prevent an epic tragedy. Will the United States and the international community take advantage of it?

    Jan 5, 2018

  • Traffic on a street lined with trees in Jakarta, Indonesia.

    Journal Article

    How Jakarta's Traffic Affects Labor Market Outcomes for Women and People with Disabilities: Results from a Baseline Survey

    From the research reviewed and the existing data summarized, this report develops a theory of change for how labor market outcomes for females might be influenced by improvements to public transportation.

    Dec 28, 2017

  • Journal Article

    Estimating Productivity Spillovers Among Firm Networks in Indonesia

    Clustering of firms in Indonesia only leads to substantial productivity spillovers in a few industries, suggesting the need to review cluster policies.

    Dec 19, 2017

  • An armored personnel carrier on a highway after President Rodrigo Duterte announced the liberation of Marawi in Lanao Del Sur, Philippines, October 28, 2017

    Commentary

    Is the Philippines the Next Caliphate?

    The Philippines is a long way from the Islamic State's birthplace in the Middle East. But the jihadis have already seized and held a city there for three months. Even if the Philippines doesn't become a major node in the Islamic State's network, it will likely remain fertile ground for supporting the group and its violent agenda.

    Nov 28, 2017

  • U.S. President Donald Trump and Vietnam's President Tran Dai Quang attend a news conference in Hanoi, November 12, 2017

    Commentary

    U.S. Striking Just the Right Balance with Vietnam in South China Sea

    The Trump administration has seized upon positive momentum from the Obama administration to elevate U.S.-Vietnam defense cooperation to new heights.

    Nov 23, 2017