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.

  • Commentary

    With ASEAN Paralyzed, Southeast Asia Seeks New Security Ties

    The Association of Southeast Asian Nations tirelessly proclaims its centrality to the region, but its inability to develop a coherent response to Chinese aggression or the crisis in Myanmar has effectively killed that claim. ASEAN members will inevitably continue to seek out alternative paths.

    Sep 18, 2023

  • Report

    How Would U.S. Allies View Changes in Washington's Relationship with Taiwan?

    The debate in Washington over Taiwan often overlooks a crucial question: How would America's regional allies respond to possible changes in U.S. policy toward the island? Researchers explored the perspectives of Japan, South Korea, and the Philippines.

    Jul 20, 2023

Explore Southeast Asia

  • Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen attends a campaign rally ahead of the presidential election in Taipei, Taiwan, December 21, 2019, photo by Tyrone Siu/Reuters

    Commentary

    What Taiwan and Vietnam Could Tell Us in 2020

    While many issues warrant attention in 2020, two that should be near the top of Asia-watchers' lists are Taiwan and Vietnam. Both are on the front lines of Chinese coercion, and their ability to respond, either with or without American support, will set the tone in the Indo-Pacific well beyond 2020.

    Dec 30, 2019

  • Image by Alyson Youngblood/RAND Corporation

    Blog

    Most Popular RAND Blog Commentary of 2019

    Terrorism. The humanitarian crisis at the border. How to engage friends and foes on the world stage. Here are the top 10 commentaries that readers engaged with most on The RAND Blog in 2019.

    Dec 23, 2019

  • A Chinese Coast Guard ship from the bow of a Vietnam Marine Guard ship in the South China Sea, near Vietnam, May 14, 2014, photo by Nguyen Minh/Reuters

    Commentary

    Vietnam Needs to 'Struggle' More in the South China Sea

    With the standoff between China and Vietnam at the disputed Vanguard Bank ended, it makes sense to take stock of how Hanoi's security strategy fared in countering Chinese coercion. It may be time for Vietnam to consider a careful recalibration to allow for more “struggle” and less “cooperation.”

    Nov 15, 2019

  • A woman walks along a road covered in smog due to a forest fire in Banjarbaru, South Kalimantan province, Indonesia, September 6, 2019, photo by Antara Foto Agency/Reuters

    Commentary

    Uncovering the Links Between Fires and Public Health in Equatorial Asia

    Fires in Indonesia, if left unchecked, could cause an average of 36,000 premature deaths annually across Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore. Researchers built a tool that models the effect of the fires on public health.

    Oct 25, 2019

  • Journal Article

    Journal Article

    High-frequency Internet Survey of a Probability Sample of Older Singaporeans: The Singapore Life Panel®

    We detail the methodology by which the Singapore Life Panel was constructed using a population-representative sampling frame from the Singapore Department of Statistics.

    Sep 20, 2019

  • Journal Article

    Journal Article

    Financial Knowledge and Portfolio Complexity in Singapore

    This paper reports the first analysis of older Singaporeans' financial literacy using a unique new dataset, the Singapore Life Panel (SLP®).

    Sep 20, 2019

  • 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

  • Commentary

    Commentary

    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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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 14, 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