South-Eastern Asia and Pacific: Trends and Forecast for 2016
The big choice: US or China?
In 2015, Australia and Oceania, as well as South-East Asia, were still influenced by the processes specific to the Asia-Pacific region. Two major forces, US and China, are fighting for influence in this part of the world. After the finalization of forming of a multipolar world, Beijing and Washington will be the main centers of attraction for the region.
One of the most important events for the region in 2015 was the agreement on the establishment of a new economic association - the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). In fact - it is nothing but a continuation of the expansionary economic policy of Washington, seeking by all means to stop the points of economic growth that have the potential of going out of the control of the hegemon. This transnational elite does not take into account the position of US producers who can not compete with the fast-growing Asia-Pacific countries that have tremendous human resources and growing technical potential. TPP supposes gradual reduction or elimination of duties and other barriers to the movement of goods, services and capital. The agreement involves Australia, Brunei, Vietnam, Canada, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, the United States, Singapore, Chile and Japan. Interest to join the TPP has been shown by Indonesia and South Korea. In this case the signing of a formal agreement will be a further step towards the erosion of borders and globalization, which is one of the main goals of the liberal elite.
Elections in Singapore: the success of the Conservatives
In 2015, Singapore held important elections. The state that for decades has been showing excellent dynamics of economic growth, has shown itself as a stable society: the party "People's action", created by Lee Kuan Yew, who has spearheaded the creation of a modern state, won 83 of the 89 seats in parliament. At the moment, the Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong, is the eldest son of Lee Kuan Yu. The leading opposition party that adheres to the liberal ideology has received the remaining 6 seats. In other words, the Singapore people demonstrated unanimity in commitment to traditional values laid down by the founders of the modern state.
Elections in Myanmar: the victory of the liberals
Elections in Myanmar, by contrast, showed the opposite trend to Singapore: the parliamentary elections were won by the "National League for Democracy." While this does not mean immediate removal from power of the military leadership, trend for gradual change of regime in the country is obvious.
Myanmar is bordering both with India and China and has its own exit to the Indian Ocean, essential for many players, primarily the United States. The defeat of the conservative "Union for Solidarity and Development" in the elections may indicate the activation of the pro-American forces and US special services in this area.
On the other hand, the leader of the "National League for Democracy," Aung San Suu Kyi, shortly before the election, visited China and met with the political leadership of the country. Given the difficult Sino-Myanmar relations in recent years, many analysts do not rule out that Beijing also supported the opposition party in opposition to Myanmar's ruling military junta.
At the regional competition between India and China, Myanmar has chosen Delhi as a priority focus. In 2013, India had provided a loan to Myanmar for 500 million dollars. In 2016 the construction of the transport corridor will be completed, which will connect India and Thailand through Myanmar.
To a large extent the development of events in the countries in the region as a whole depends on China. The Indo-Chinese conflict can be used by extra-regional forces to weaken the multipolar alternative to a unipolar American hegemony. The political turn of Myanmar could trigger an escalation of instability in the region, where the main beneficiary of this will be transnational liberal elites who are interested in the destabilization of the poles of a multipolar world (in this case - India and China).
The militarization of the region
Vietnam has received six Russian submarines of "Kilo"-class. In addition, Hanoi, in 2015, made a number of statements about the intention to develop their military, particularly naval cooperation with Washington. Another regional player, Indonesia, also said that in the near future it plans to acquire some Russian-made submarines in order to strengthen its military presence. The leadership of Thailand also voiced similar intentions. In addition, major regional players such as Australia and Japan also have increased their military budgets.
To a large extent this is due to the unresolved conflict concerning the ownership of the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. The erection of Chinese military infrastructure is pushing the region toward a closer union with the United States.
Japan: militarization and nationalism
Last year Tokyo continued the line of military cooperation with the United States. In 2015, a new agreement on military alliance between Japan and the United States was signed (in fact the first major change in the treaty of 1960, signed by Nobusuke Kishi - grandfather of the current Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe), for which Japan had the right to defend regional allies, who were attacked. Through such a formulation the Japanese defense system will be able to intercept missiles fired at the United States. Obviously, a potential opponent in this scenario is North Korea, and possibly China. Importantly, the Japanese parliament approved an agreement that in fact means a revision of the military doctrine of the state. In the summer of 2015, appropriate amendments to the legislation of the country were approved by Parliament. Before, Tokyo could only defend itself, responding to aggression from outside. Now, military forces can be used to protect their "allies". In addition, the Japanese government decided to intensify the participation in peacekeeping operations around the world. Also in 2015, a record high defense budget (42.1 billion. dollars) was approved. The southern borders have also been strengthened as Tokyo has territorial disputes with Beijing in this region. Also, construction of the submarine type "Soryu" - one of the largest in the world – continued.
Many circles of the population have negatively received the militarization of the country. According to opinion polls the majority of the inhabitants of the islands of Japan are opposed to this decision. One of the driving forces behind the protest was the student structure SEALD (Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy). It is significant that a number of features formed during the demonstrations of the protest movement - support for young people, ultra-liberal rhetoric, accusations of Abe's nationalism, shifting attention to the dangers of the Japanese armed forces in the interests of the United States on blurred "pacifism". The widespread use of clichés and methods specific for of color revolutions in other regions of the world indicates that the Atlanticists are trying to control the situation in the country, including with the help of protest movements.
Atlantisists have blackmailed Abe, who at some point may become too independent, with threats of a color revolution.
Radical Islam in Indonesia and the Philippines
Indonesia and the Philippines have continued to struggle against groups of Islamic extremists hiding in the jungle of the islands. Of particular importance is the growing influence of Islamic radicalism in Indonesia, the largest Islamic country in the world. We should recall that in 2014, Indonesia was the only country in the world outside the self-proclaimed Caliphate, which had open demonstrations in support of ISIS. Indonesian militants have made a number of statements in the past year. The activities of the Indonesian security services show that they are afraid of serious terrorist attacks under the banner of the ISIS in the coming year.
In 2015, countries of the region faced a migration crisis related to the relocation of tens of thousands of ethnic Rohingya people from Myanmar and Bangladesh. These Muslims are second-class citizens in Buddhist Myanmar, and try to move to other countries, especially to Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines. It is expected that in the first few months of 2015 illegal carriers transported more than 25 thousand Rohingya. The exact number of migrants that have moved in 2015 is unknown. Over 32,000 Rohingya arrived in Bangladesh; local authorities have decided to settle them on a remote island. Several hundred drowned in the Molluca Strait and Andaman Sea.
The arrival of foreigners has caused a mass protest from local people and helps to destabilize the situation in the countries of Southeast Asia. As in Europe, the United States insists on taking refugee by the countries of the region, but most states refuse to do so.
Australia in 2015 continued the policy of "stop the boats” with migrants, mostly from countries of Oceania and Southeast Asia. They were caught near the Australian coast and sent to special camps in neighboring countries, primarily in Papua New Guinea.
Australia is a key state in the southern part of the Asia-Pacific region. As part of the Anglo-Saxon world, this state is certainly an ally of the United States and holds a pro-American policy on all major issues, in 2015 this trend continued. It signed a major trade agreement with Japan, which reduces import duties on high-tech products. Tokyo, for its part, did the same for the Australian agricultural products. In addition, Canberra marked efforts to intensify trade relations with China, but the pressure from Washington and the bias of most media outlets did not allow the development of this trend. In the summer of 2015, the leadership of Australia announced plans to develop and strengthen their Navy and Air Force. In particular, it was announced that the program of construction of new warships would be started soon. The military budget of the country increased to 32 billion dollars. Many members of the army leadership of Australia, with the help of the media, have made a number of statements that highlight the opinion that the Australian army needs a numerical increase in personnel and the modernization of weapons.
In 2015, a trend of weakening ties between Australia and its neighbor New Zealand, on the one hand, and Britain on the other appeared. On September 15, 2015 Malcolm Turnbull became the new Australian Prime Minister. He replaced Tony Abbott on the post of Liberal Party leader. Abbot was known for his radical anti-Russian stance. The current leadership of Australia is more restrained in statements, while generally holding the same policy.
Unlike Abbott, a supporter of constitutional monarchy (the formal head of state is still the Queen of England), Turnbull in the past was known as a supporter of the transformation of Australia into a republic, although this does not mean an immediate implementation of its plans.
In 2015 New Zealand began the process of changing the flag of the country. In a referendum in November-December 2015, an alternative to a flag where the upper left part displays the flag of Great Britain was chosen. It is expected that in 2016 the inhabitants of the country will have to choose between the British colonial flag with symbols and signs, and a flag without indication of the country's membership of the former British Empire.Forecast for 2016
The dichotomy of China-US
This year the region felt even more the affection by the growing contradictions between Washington and Beijing. Despite the fact that the Chinese leadership, in light of the weakening economy, is unlikely to take drastic steps in the current year, it will continue to strengthen its positions in Southeast Asia and in Australia and Oceania. This process will meet resistance from Washington, who considers the region one of the keys to keeping the status of the hegemon. States involved in this multi-level confrontation between the two superpowers will find it more difficult to maneuver and maintain the appearance of neutrality. The formation of a multipolar world will continue to grow and, therefore, countries in the region will need to choose which pole of power they consider a priority.
The militarization of the region
The growth of military budgets of key regional players, continued confrontation between Beijing and Washington, as well as the strengthening of militarist sentiment in Japan, promotes military spending in 2016. Many regional conflicts will also contribute to strengthening the militarist sentiment in the countries of the region. It is important to note that the vast majority of states do not have the necessary production base for the creation of modern types of weapons. So in 2016 the region will see increased competition between leading weapons producers, primarily the US and Russia for the right to arm one country or another.
Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank
In January 2016, the first meeting of the Board of Governors of the Asian Infrastructure Investments Bank will take place. It is designed to be an alternative to the International Monetary Fund. China, Russia and India are the three largest shareholders of the new financial institution. In fact, this event will signal real steps to the deconstruction of the financial hegemony of the West. The vast majority of regional players also participated in the creation of AIIB, and therefore the financial realities of these countries will change in the first place. This will mean a new round of formation of a multipolar world.
Strengthening of radical Islamism
The trend for the strengthening of radical Islamist organizations will continue. First of all we are talking about the branches of ISIS. We should expect terrorist attacks in the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Australia.
The migration crisis will continue. The problem with Rohingya is not solved, and will add to the new wave of immigrants. This will cause a nationalist backlash primarily in non-Muslim countries, such as Thailand, where Muslim immigrants, mainly Uighurs, are already threatening the country's security. In particular, Uighurs conducted terrorist attacks in Bangkok on August 18, 2015.
The Republican trend in Australia and New Zealand
Australia and New Zealand will continue the policy of distancing from the United Kingdom. New Zealand in 2016 finally will remove the Union Jack national flag. Australia will reduce the activity within the British Commonwealth of Nations, focusing instead on maneuvering between the US and China. It is likely that for the first time in a long time the question on the form of government in Australia will be raised once again.