Southeast Asia’s autocratic leaders have adored Trump’s transactional approach to foreign policy and at times won trade and defense deals without adequate scrutiny of their poor human rights records. The incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden will take a tougher stance on democracy and human rights in bilateral deals.
One of the last remaining populations of a rare primate, the Delacour’s langur, lives in forests south of Hanoi. But limestone mining and poaching are pushing the species to the brink of extinction, despite conservation efforts.
The US Treasury Department’s designation of Vietnam as a currency manipulator reflects President Trump’s push to punish countries that have trade surpluses against the US. However, the move is likely to start a new phase of negotiations to avoid harm to both countries’ strategic interests.
The past few months have seen growing engagements between India and Vietnam. While China’s aggression remains a common concern, for India this is also an opportunity to reset its engagements with ASEAN after opting out of the RCEP in November.
Facebook’s reported compliance with the Vietnamese government’s censorship requests does not set an encouraging precedent. The practice is likely to encourage authoritarian regimes as more repressive governments may adopt similar strategies against the tech giant.
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The geopolitics of the Mekong river continue to evolve, with key announcements from China, Thailand and the Mekong River Commission.
Vietnam’s successful response to COVID-19 appears to be giving way to a rapid recovery, drawing international attention to the country’s leadership both domestically and on regional issues for Southeast Asia.
The signing of the RCEP points to the potential power of Southeast Asia’s neutrality amid US-China tensions.
The 37th ASEAN Summit, which ended on November 15, saw member states adopt decisive and concrete measures to bolster internal and external cooperation and to overcome major challenges facing the regional bloc, including the COVID-19 pandemic.