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.

  • China with sunset on Earth

    Report

    China's Engagement with the Developing World

    Oct 16, 2018

    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?

  • 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

    Apr 18, 2018

    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.

Explore Southeast Asia

  • The Maute group stronghold with an ISIS flag in Marawi City, in southern Philippines, May 29, 2017, photo by Erik De Castro/Reuters

    Commentary

    Southeast Asia Loves ISIS, but Is the Feeling Mutual?

    As the ISIS core in Iraq and Syria attempts to rebuild, Baghdadi and his lieutenants will have to make difficult decisions about where to allocate resources. Now that the caliphate is gone and ISIS must transform into an insurgency, the largely untested lands of Southeast Asia may yield rich rewards.

    Sep 16, 2019

  • Boats on the Musi River which was shrouded in smoke following an increase in fires in the region in Palembang, South Sumatra, Indonesia, September 16, 2018, photo by Antara Foto/Nova Wahyudi/Reuters

    Commentary

    We Built an App to Detect Areas Most Vulnerable to Life-Threatening Haze

    Forest and land-use fires are ravaging Indonesia's Sumatra and Kalimantan islands. Haze from these fires is life-threatening; inhaling smoke can cause heart and respiratory diseases, leading to premature deaths. We developed a new tool to provide decisionmakers with information to protect people who live downwind.

    Sep 10, 2019

  • The U.S. Navy's guided-missile destroyer USS William P. Lawrence transits international waters of the South China Sea with ships from India, Japan, and the Philippines, May 5, 2019, photo by Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force

    Report

    The Thickening Web of Asian Security Cooperation

    Key U.S. allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific have been strengthening their defense ties with regional actors over the past two decades. To what extent is this a response to the perceived threat of a rising, assertive China? And how will these new commitments affect the United States?

    Aug 29, 2019

  • Soldiers of China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy stand guard in the Spratly Islands, known in China as the Nansha Islands, February 10, 2016

    Commentary

    Why Vanguard Bank and Why Now? Explaining Chinese Behavior in the South China Sea

    What can Vietnam do now to make Chinese assertiveness against it less likely going forward? Although deepening the U.S.-Vietnam defense partnership in the short-term may be contributing to trouble with China, closer cooperation in the long-run could serve to deter China. Enhancing cooperation with Vietnam's other defense partners—namely Australia, Japan, and India—could help to deter Beijing as well.

    Aug 19, 2019

  • A typical communist style statue in the capital city of North Korea, photo by alexkuehni/Getty Images

    Commentary

    Searching for Signs of Doi Moi in North Korea

    President Trump's second summit with Kim Jong Un prompted voluminous commentary about whether Pyongyang might adopt the “Vietnam model” of economic reform and opening up, known as doi moi. Some version of doi moi is not impossible in North Korea, but it will likely be more difficult than it was in Vietnam and made all the more so by Kim's reluctance to risk losing absolute control.

    Aug 12, 2019

  • Sailors stand guard near petrol boats at the Cambodian Ream Naval Base in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, July 26, 2019, photo by Pring Samrang/Reuters

    Commentary

    The Ramifications of China's Reported Naval Base in Cambodia

    China and Cambodia have reportedly signed a secret agreement allowing the Chinese navy to use a military facility near Ream, along Cambodia's southern coast, though both countries deny the reports. The installation of a Chinese military facility in Cambodia, if realized, would further complicate an already sensitive and tense situation in the region.

    Aug 7, 2019

  • Journal Article

    Journal Article

    Fires, Smoke Exposure, and Public Health: An Integrative Framework to Maximize Health Benefits from Peatland Restoration

    In this study, we present a novel approach that integrates information on the drivers of fire emissions in Indonesia, the transport of smoke to downwind regional population centers, and the resulting population exposure to air pollution.

    Aug 6, 2019

  • Report

    Report

    A U.S. Option Playbook for Contingency Planning to Reclaim Scarborough Shoal

    In this paper, the author proposes a graduated menu of response options for the United States to consider in the event that China undertakes irreversible actions to alter the status quo of Scarborough Shoal.

    Jun 27, 2019

  • Report

    Report

    "The Project May Serve the Nation — But What About Us, Who Live Here?": Villagers' Views of the Dawei Special Economic Zone, an Internationally Funded Infrastructure Project in Myanmar

    To gain a better understanding of how foreign infrastructure investment in Myanmar may affect local communities, RAND researchers conducted a survey of 250 residents of communities near the Dawei Special Economic Zone.

    Jun 4, 2019

  • Blog

    Iran, Prison College Programs, Fentanyl: RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on Iran's nonstate partners, lessons from a prison college program, what a fentanyl ban in China means for the U.S. opioid crisis, and more.

    May 24, 2019

  • Blog

    Journalism, U.S.–Iranian Tensions, School Reform: RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on how the news has changed in the digital age, rising U.S.–Iranian tensions, how educators feel about school improvement plans, and more.

    May 17, 2019

  • News Release

    News Release

    Some Asian Nations Reforming Drug Policies; China Unlikely to Curb Fentanyl Exports in Short Term

    Strict policies traditionally embraced by Asian nations to discourage illicit drug use are beginning to change, with a few nations adopting alternative approaches while other nations are taking an even harder line against drugs.

    May 15, 2019

  • Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy soldiers patrol in the Spratly Islands, February 9, 2016, photo by China Stringer Network/Reuters

    Commentary

    Vietnam Is the Chinese Military's Preferred Warm-Up Fight

    China's last major war experience gave it virtually zero lessons to apply to future armed conflict. At some point the People's Liberation Army (PLA) will need to test its new capabilities and the training it has honed over time. There are at least three reasons why Vietnam is likely in the PLA's crosshairs.

    May 15, 2019

  • East and Southeast Asia on a globe, photo by fpdress/Getty Images

    Report

    Contemporary Asian Drug Policy

    An analysis of drug use, drug supply, and the burden of disease associated with illegal drugs in Asia can inform policies aiming to reduce substance use disorders and drug trafficking. Three case studies show how drug policy is shifting in the Philippines, Thailand, and China.

    May 15, 2019

  • Indonesian president Joko Widodo greets his supporters during a campaign rally at Gelora Bung Karno stadium in Jakarta, Indonesia, April 13, 2019, photo by Willy Kurniawan/Reuters

    Commentary

    What Jokowi’s Reelection Means for Indonesia

    On April 17, Indonesia conducted the largest single-day vote in any nation's history. President Joko Widodo has likely netted a second term. What does that mean for his nation and its place in the world?

    Apr 25, 2019

  • Soldiers of China's People's Liberation Army Navy patrol at Fiery Cross Reef, in the Spratly Islands, February 9, 2016, photo by China Stringer Network/Reuters

    Commentary

    Time to Speak Up About the South China Sea

    Some leaders in Southeast Asia may fear that new or enhanced postures in the South China Sea could antagonize China. But directly calling out China's breaks from the status quo or intimidation tactics may not necessarily put these countries at risk of Chinese countermeasures.

    Mar 20, 2019

  • 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