Authors: Geetha Govindasamy and Mohammad Danial Azman*
Malaysia, as a small country in Southeast Asia, has always maintained a pragmatic foreign policy that caters for complex domestic as well as external interests. Thus far, it has avoided being trapped in China-Japan competition for influence in the Southeast Asian region. Nonetheless, Malaysia’s foreign policy continues to display shifts and continuity in policymaking. While Kuala Lumpur has consciously taken the position of balancing its relations with both Beijing and Tokyo, certain administrations have given more attention to a particular state at one time or another. Against this backdrop, Malaysia’s relations with Japan has consistently continued uninterrupted for six decades albeit with some fluctuations along the way. Despite having been colonized by Japan between 1941 and 1945, Kuala Lumpur established relations with Tokyo in 1957, right after obtaining its independence from the British in the same year.
For the first three decades, bilateral relations were uneventful, mostly concentrating on economic interactions. It can be assumed that both states, one newly independent and the other severely damaged by World War Two focused more on economic building and recovery respectively. For Malaysia, efforts to develop the economy in the 1970s saw Japanese companies working together with government linked agencies like the National Corporation Limited (Pernas), Majlis Amanah Rakyat (MARA) and Federal Land Development Authority (FELDA). The formation of the Malaysia-Japan Economic Association (MAJECA) in Malaysia and Japan-Malaysia Economic Association (JAMECA) in Japan in 1977 further enhanced bilateral relations. Despite these developments, Japan was still considered to be at the peripheral in Malaysian foreign policy.
Malaysia’s perception changed dramatically when Japan developed rapidly, particularly in the 1980s making it the second largest economy in the world. Malaysian policymakers were taken up by the ability of Japanese companies to penetrate world markets. Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad (1981-2003) attributed the success to Japanese ethics, work culture and value system. Mahathir began to warm up to Japan not only to acquire technological know-how or draw investments but to inculcate a sense of Asian identity that was relatable to the Malaysian mindset. Not surprisingly, in 1982, Mahathir announced the Look East Policy (LEP) during the fifth annual joint conference of MAJECA-JAMECA meeting. This policy which was a major turning point played an important role in shaping Malaysia-Japan relations in the subsequent years. Groups of select Malaysian students were placed in universities in Japan with the expectation that those graduates would immerse themselves in Japanese value system and management style so as to be able to contribute effectively to the productivity and innovation of their home country.
At the same time, Mahathir was especially interested in the Japanese style of cooperation between public-private partnerships in targeting overseas investments. Therefore, Malaysia established the concept of Malaysia Incorporated, similar to that of Japan Incorporated which highlighted a system where the government and businesses were cooperative and not confrontational in nature. After the establishment of the LEP, investors’ confidence in Malaysia increased and this in turn saw a rapid expansion of Japanese investments from companies like Toray, Hitachi, Sony and Panasonic in the manufacturing sector. Since LEP became one of the main policy drivers in attracting Japanese investments, this eventually made Japan a dominant player in the Malaysian industrialization process.
Though Malaysia-Japan relations has shown continued resilience, nonetheless the gradual rise of China impacted Malaysian foreign policy orientation, especially under the administration of Prime Minister Najib Razak (2009 -2018). While Malaysian leaders in the 1970s and 80s perceived China as a threat, Mahathir Mohamad took a different view in the 1980s by recognizing the Chinese market as a valuable access for local goods. The gradual rise of China saw subsequent Malaysian leaders taking the same stance. Three decades later, with China’s Belt and Road Initiative gaining a foothold in Malaysia, Chinese investments in major infrastructure projects such as deep-sea ports and railway lines became quite prevalent under the administration of Najib Razak. This led to a perception of Najib being pro-China, more so after he agreed to procure Chinese-made military equipment amidst rising tensions in the South China Sea. Such a perception also contributed to the notion thatMalaysia- Japan relations have become secondary to that of Beijing-Kuala Lumpur ties.
However, the unexpected regime change after the 2018 general elections in Malaysia, coupled with nonagenarian Mahathir Mohamad becoming the prime minister (2018-2020) for a second time saw the immediate revival of Malaysia-Japan relations. The Pakatan Harapan government commandeered by Mahathir elevated bilateral relations as the prime minister’s belief system was defined by a fondness for Japanese values and management style. As expected, Japan was the first country Mahathir visited after being sworn in as the prime minister. In order to stimulate the economy with Japanese capital and technology, the LEP was revived and renamed LEP 2.0. Not surprisingly, the policy became a hallmark of Mahathir’s second term.
Policymakers acknowledged that Malaysia needed to learn the extent to which Japan had encouraged collaboration between government, research and academia in its manufacturing industry in order to create viable long term solutions and innovations. If Najib Razak coveted Chinese investments, Mahathir turned to Japanese companies involved in high-tech and high-end service industries.With the Malaysian government’s assistance, after decades of focusing investments in the electrical and electronics sectors, Japanese companies increasingly began investing in medical device manufacturing, digital technology and halal food industries. This diversification was in line with the Mahathir’s national industry policy which took into account the ongoing Industrial Revolution (IR) 4.0. Predictably, Japan became one of the top sources of foreign direct investments into Malaysia during the Pakatan Harapan government.
Overall, the waxing and waning of Malaysia-Japan relations has much to do with the leadership of the country. In early 2020, Malaysia experienced another dramatic change of government less than two years after the country’s landmark May 2018 election that ousted the 60 year old Barisan Nasional government. Even though Japan is still viewed as a strategic trading and investment partner, it is apparent that domestic concerns have become the immediate priority to the new government under Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.
The arrival of COVID 19 pandemic at a time when Muhyiddin is at his most vulnerable due to political infighting means that domestic issues will override foreign policy considerations. Against this backdrop, it is more likely that newer Japanese investors will adopt a ‘wait and see attitude’ before investing. Such a scenario is detrimental to Malaysia which needs more Japanese investments to assist in restructuring local companies to apply digital and innovative technologies that will enable them to migrate to IR 4.0. systematically.
As before, Muhyiddin, should recognized the LEP as a tool that can serve to shore up investor confidence that will translate into larger Japanese investments into the country. Since Malaysia’s debt is predicted to rise while the government struggles with the Covid-19 pandemic, the government could request for Japanese capital in the form of yen-denominated bonds with no strings attached (commonly known as Samurai Bonds) for much needed development expenditure. In the event Muhyiddin revitalizes LEP 2.0 and chooses to acquire Samurai Bonds which is a government-to-government (G2G) arrangement, Kuala Lumpur-Tokyo relations will indubitably continue to strengthen and Japan will remain a valued partner in the ongoing efforts to transform Malaysia into a “fully developed country” through the IR 4.0. benchmark.
*Both Dr Geetha Govindasamy and Dr. Mohammad Danial Azman are Senior Lecturers at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.This research was sponsored by a 2019/20 Sumitomo Grant.
Indonesia: Climate Change Challenges
Indonesia is a nation that faces the threat of drowning land due to the impact of global warming. Rising sea levels, caused by the warming of the Earth’s atmosphere, are leading to the submergence of low-lying areas in the country, particularly in coastal regions. The effects of this problem are not limited to the loss of land, but also include the displacement of populations, environmental degradation, and the potential exacerbation of social, economic, and political issues.
The impact of rising sea levels on Indonesia’s archipelagic status is a real concern as many of its outermost islands and basepoints could potentially be submerged in the future. As an archipelagic state, Indonesia benefits greatly from UNCLOS, which permits Indonesia to claim sovereignty over all of the waters between its islands. If sea levels rise, the basepoints used for drawing archipelagic baselines might be partly or fully covered by water, affecting the measurement of the allowable distance between all the basepoints. In a worst-case scenario, where the basepoints are completely underwater, Indonesia may have to find alternative basepoints or rebuild them. Rising sea levels could cause total territorial loss, including the loss of baselines and maritime zones measured from them.
To protect its archipelagic status, Indonesia needs to assess the impact of sea level rise on the outermost points of its islands and drying reefs of its archipelago. It should also record the heights above sea level of these basepoints, and how much they will be impacted by sea level rises. Indonesia could consider declaring its archipelagic baselines as final once defined and declared notwithstanding sea level rise. Additionally, Indonesia and other Southeast Asian countries threatened by rising sea levels could adopt a regional declaration recognizing the stability of their baselines and secure their maritime entitlements. As chairs of ASEAN this year, Indonesia could take this opportunity to take collective action to respond to rising sea levels.
The issue of environmental migrants is closely tied to this problem. Environmental migrants are individuals or groups of people who are forced to migrate from their homes or communities due to environmental factors, including sea-level rise, drought, desertification, and deforestation. In the case of Indonesia, many people are likely to be displaced by the submergence of coastal areas, which can lead to a variety of challenges, including housing insecurity, food insecurity, and economic instability.
In the face of these challenges, it is crucial that effective protection of fundamental human rights is prioritized. This includes ensuring that the rights of environmental migrants are protected, including the right to adequate housing, food, and healthcare, as well as the right to seek asylum and protection from persecution. Governments must also take steps to address the root causes of environmental migration, such as by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and promoting sustainable development.
Existing policies and international frameworks, such as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement, provide a basis for action on this issue. However, it is essential that governments and other stakeholders take concrete steps to implement these policies effectively, and that the voices of affected communities are heard in the decision-making process. This requires a commitment to collaboration, transparency, and accountability at all levels of governance, as well as a recognition of the urgent need to address the threat of climate change and its impact on vulnerable populations.
International efforts, such as the International Organization for Migration’s support for a research project on climate and migration in Indonesia, and the World Bank’s South Asia Water Initiative and Climate Adaptation and Resilience for South Asia project, are encouraging but insufficient. Therefore, three policy recommendations to reduce the risk of climate-induced migration in South Asia are offered:
-Promote more livelihood opportunities in non-agricultural sectors to reduce the vulnerability of agriculture workers to climate-driven displacement.
-Empower non-federal authorities to better tackle climate-induced displacement risks, particularly at the local level.
-Host and sponsor dialogues and other exchanges to generate greater regional cooperation so that South Asian states can jointly combat the shared and transnational threats of climate change and climate-induced displacement.
The threat of drowning land in Indonesia due to global warming highlights the urgent need for action on the issue of environmental migration and the protection of fundamental human rights. Governments and other stakeholders must work together to address the root causes of this problem and to provide effective support and protection to affected communities.
Indonesia’s Leadership in ASEAN 2023: Young Generation as Game Changers in Echoing Regional Peace Narratives
‘ASEAN Matters: Epicentrum of Growth’ was announced by President Joko Widodo as the theme for the one-year relay of Indonesia’s leadership in ASEAN at the ASEAN Summit agenda on 13 November 2022 in Cambodia. As can be seen, Indonesia has received a lot of trusts and a progressive image from the international order, as evidenced by its success at the G20 multilateral economic cooperation forum in 2022, and this year Indonesia is preparing to become the leader of the regional organization agenda of The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) (Setkab, 2022). Indonesia openly gets many opportunities to introduce its identity to be more vocal regionally and multilaterally, one of which is introducing basic Indonesian principles such as Pancasila and Bhinneka Tunggal Ika (different but still one), which are compact or following the principles of international organizations which Indonesia chairs. As a reflection, ASEAN is indeed thick with diversity, so solidarity is one of the principles upheld. Archipelagically, Indonesia is a country composed of tracks of reconciliation with differences. So, in terms of harmonizing the differences that occur, Indonesia has vital ammunition for that.
The effort and enthusiasm of innovative and creative youth in various fields is a potent ammunition from Indonesia. According to the Central Statistics Agency (BPS), in 2021, the youth in Indonesia will be around 64.92 million people, or around 23.90% of Indonesia’s total population (Mahdi, 2021). What about the number of youths within the scope of ASEAN? ASEAN estimates that the total population of the younger generation will be around 220 million in 2038, which has yet to be accumulated with the estimated calculation of Timor Leste’s inclusion as the 11th member of ASEAN (CNN, 2022). So, the total population explosion must be utilized as the epicenter of progressive growth for all ASEAN countries. Referring to article 32 of the ASEAN charter, ASEAN leaders have three main tasks: spokesperson, chief executive, and tabling new initiatives. Also, in carrying out this leadership, the ASEAN chairperson must pay attention to several things: actively advancing and enhancing the interests of ASEAN members, guaranteeing ASEAN centrality, representing ASEAN, ensuring an adequate response, and carrying out its duties, principles, and functions to the fullest (ASEAN, 2008). There are three main pillars in the topic of ASEAN discussion; the first is the economic sector which is discussed in the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), politics in the ASEAN Political-Security Community (APSC), and socio-culture in the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC). A topic that is interesting to young people and has a variety of uniqueness due to the diversity of ASEAN is ASCC-based so socio-cultural terminology will be the main focus of writing. The heart of ASCC is to ensure the quality of life (QOL); quality of life of the ASEAN people through cooperative activities with the concept of being people-oriented, people-centered, environmentally friendly, and promoting sustainable development (ASEAN, 2016). Therefore, when Indonesia chaired ASEAN, he had a significant role in maintaining regional and domestic stability. When the quality of life and regional stability are met, the situation is safe and free from threats, and the obstacles to achieving ASEAN’s vision can be reduced in tension. Regarding peace, the young generation of ASEAN, especially in Indonesia, must be introduced and well-educated as a game-changer to create peace in the Southeast Asian region. So, this article simultaneously proves the question, how can Indonesian youth be actively involved in regional peace through the momentum of Indonesia’s chairmanship in ASEAN in 2023?
Looking back on youth involvement in ASEAN, for the first time in 2022, ASEAN held a Youth Dialogue under the chairmanship of Cambodia in ASEAN in 2022. This Youth Dialogue is being held jointly with the Republic of Korea (ROK) and resulted in policy recommendations as a form of commitment from the younger generation in preparing for the industrial revolution 4.0 in the era of recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic (ASEAN, 2022). In other forums still under ASEAN’s attention, the younger generation has only made and submitted policy recommendations that have yet to be contributively and actively involved in the ASEAN process. Indicators or parameters of the younger generation’s influence in ASEAN regional forums still need to be determined because the younger generation still plays a passive role in ASEAN. On the other hand, many youth-based organizations, forums, communities, and start-ups in Indonesia exist. Until now, there are 2,346 start-ups in Indonesia, making Indonesia the first-ranked country with the most significant number of start-ups beating Singapore in second (Annur, 2022). Start-ups indicate the development of the young generation’s innovation and are a model and proof that Indonesia’s young generation already has the ammunition to put a ‘sense of influence’ among Southeast Asia’s younger generation. Indonesia’s momentum as chair of ASEAN in 2023 should further facilitate and provide opportunities for Indonesia’s young generation to become the epicenter of creation and innovation for the younger generation in the Southeast Asian region. The government must open up space for collaboration and cooperation between the younger generation of Indonesia and other young people in the ASEAN region so that the benefits generated are not only for the younger generation who will continue ASEAN in the future.
Citing the vital role of an ASEAN chairman, Indonesia has full power, for example, in recognizing the existence of a strategic and applicable youth regional forum according to the needs of the younger generation, for example, in cybercrime case studies. Events regarding cyber warfare and its derivatives are exciting and essential for the younger generation who live in an era of digital transformation where war, political weapons, the economy, and various aspects that can weaken national security are carried out through cyberspace. The point of cyber security at the ASEAN level must be a shared concern and mission. This mission can be focused on the younger generation, firstly through policy recommendations, secondly also through meetings or gatherings under the pillars of ASEAN in which the younger generation has not been a representative so far to listen to and interpret debates which also ultimately have an impact on their welfare, the younger generation can become observers in meetings involving high-ranking state officials, even though at the closing ceremony or summit, in the end, the younger generation can feel the atmosphere of meetings in ASEAN. In another form of involvement, the younger generation in Southeast Asia should have a common interest or shared goals, especially in viewing the centrality of ASEAN, and in this case, shared goals are formulated through meetings at the youth level which will ultimately position ASEAN to have a youth-way. The existence of multilateral forums such as dialogues and conferences will further increase awareness and a sense of solidarity with each other, so that common interests arise. The younger generation must promote, innovate, and integrate ASEAN in the focus of any issues that ASEAN will implement in the ASEAN leadership under Indonesia as its chairperson in 2023.
This analogy can describe the relationship of involvement and interrelationship between peace, the younger generation, and Indonesia’s leadership. Peace is a goal to be achieved, while the younger generation is a tool (game-changer) in achieving this goal, and Indonesia’s chairmanship of ASEAN in 2023 is the time or momentum. Through the younger generation, the concept of peace regarding fairness in opinion and innovation, the right to be protected from threats, and the right to be free to make choices these values will be reflected when the younger generation knows their position and what is the urgency and justification for their existence in this context. Indonesia’s leadership in several forums has been left from regional to multilateral. The low failure rate in these leadership positions indicates that peace as a form of embodiment of ASEAN’s vision and solidarity in its journey is possible, primarily through the younger generation’s involvement. Harmonization between the values upheld in each country in ASEAN, under the umbrella of ASEAN centrality, is expected not to become an obstacle to the unity of these ASEAN countries. Because the main actors are the younger generation, and the younger generation tends to have a character that likes to work together and produce new ideas exclusive to their field, the tendency to distort one another is rated low. Moreover, ASEAN is the driving force for the movement of the younger generation. A package that complements and fulfills one another.
The game-changer idiom construction in the title refers to the player context, which can bring about change very effectively. When the younger generation already has a portion of involvement, then the younger generation should make the most of this position. The more optimal the role of the younger generation, the more ASCC points will be achieved and creating ASEAN as the epicenter of growth, meaning that the full significance of change is approaching the final goal, then the young generation’s point as a game-changer will be realized. In the track record of making peace with differences, the young generation sparks significant peace (volcanically) in voicing an issue. It means that Indonesia’s ammunition through the younger generation as a game-changer is no longer wishful thinking, but a reality based on factual evidence.
ASEAN “We Care, We Prepare, We Prosper” this slogan reminds us to be ready for various opportunities and challenges and ignites the spirit of achieving shared prosperity. Indonesia’s chairmanship in ASEAN is one of the venues for strengthening Indonesian identity globally; Indonesia can realize the noble values of Pancasila, which are not rigid but adapt to the urgency of ASEAN in the next year. By involving the younger generation in a comprehensive and participatory manner, there is a strategic relationship between Indonesia’s leadership as momentum, the younger generation as a game-changer or tool, and peace that is trying to be vocalized and echoed because ASEAN matters. In the end, after the common goals are achieved, mutual benefits can be added value for Indonesia and ASEAN itself.
The impact of AUKUS against China and Russia on the security of Asia and the world
The United States, the United Kingdom and Australia revealed the details of a joint plan aimed at establishing a new fleet of nuclear-powered submarines, in order to counter China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific region, within the framework of the (Aukus) agreement of a defensive nuclear nature between the United States of America, Britain and Australia, which It was announced in December 2021. Here the question remains, about: Does the Aukus agreement qualify the world for a nuclear war between China, America and the countries allied with them? Whereas, under this agreement known as the “Aukus” agreement, Australia will receive the first nuclear-powered submarines, among at least three by the United States of America. The allies will also work to form a new fleet that will use the latest advanced technologies, including British-made Rolls-Royce reactors.
For its part, the United States of America strengthened its alliance with NATO countries in Europe, Japan and South Korea. In the Asia-Pacific region, or the Indo-Pacific in the American sense, Washington strengthened the Quadruple Security Dialogue Alliance, which also includes Australia, India and Japan, and then the Aukus Nuclear Alliance with the participation of Australia and the United Kingdom. These two steps are uncomfortable for Beijing and Moscow, which warn that such moves threaten to ignite a new cold war between all parties. This is what was stated in the report of the Chinese state broadcaster, CCTV, quoting one of the speeches of Chinese President “Xi Jinping”, assuring that:
“China and Russia need to take more joint measures to protect our security and interests more effectively, and that there is no formal alliance between the two countries.” However, Chinese President “Xi Jinping” confirmed to his Russian counterpart, Putin, that “this relationship goes beyond even the alliance between the two parties”. Accordingly, the Chinese and Russian presidents began to form an “independent financial infrastructure”, to reduce their heavy dependence on Western banks and their exposure to punitive measures from the West. Through their proposal to hold a possible tripartite summit with India, it began with the visit of Russian President “Putin” to the capital, New Delhi, and his meeting with Indian Prime Minister “Narendra Modi”, and then the two parties’ agreement for India to obtain the S-500 missile system. All of these Russian and Chinese moves are to obstruct US influence in response to its existing alliances against them.
Here, China denounced the massive cooperation program, warning that the (Aukus nuclear defense agreement) between Washington, Australia and Britain represented “a wrong path and a threat to regional and international security. China’s mission to the United Nations also accused the western allies, led by the United States, of obstructing efforts to curb the spread of nuclear weapons. Certainly, building a number of security and defense blocs of a nuclear nature, such as the Okus agreement to develop NATO’s infrastructure in the Asian region, will inevitably lead to a confrontation that will last for many years. This was stated in the International Atomic Energy Agency’s warning of the dangers of nuclear proliferation with the nuclear propulsion submarine program launched by the United States, Australia and Britain.
The danger of the Aukus nuclear agreement for China comes that it will be the first time ever around the world, in which three fleets sail together and in full coordination, namely the American, British and Australian fleets, across the Atlantic and Indian oceans in the Indo-Pacific region in the American concept or Asia Pacific in the Chinese concept under the slogan of preserving freedom of navigation. It certainly raises China’s anger and fears and threatens regional security in areas of direct influence of China. The biggest Chinese fear comes from the Okus defense nuclear agreement between the United States, Australia and Britain, given that, starting in 2027, the United States and the United Kingdom will establish a base that includes a small number of nuclear submarines in the Perth region of Western Australia, before the Australian capital, Canberra, buys three American Virginia-class submarines, with other options offered to Australia by Washington to buy two more submarines. This threatens long and continuous confrontations between China and the signatories to the Aukus nuclear agreement, due to its impact on the safety and security of China and its immediate regional surroundings.
Therefore, the Chinese warning came that the “Aukus Agreement” may lead to igniting an arms race in the region, with the three countries being accused of causing a setback in efforts to prevent nuclear proliferation. China looks with resentment, especially at the rapprochement that began in the past years in the Indo-Pacific region between the authorities of Taiwan and the United States of America, because of its decades-old military support for the island in the face of Beijing. Chinese President “Xi Jinping” accused the United States of leading Western efforts towards “containing, encircling, and completely suppressing China”. Here came the American response to China, with reference to Beijing’s raising the concerns of several countries in the Asia-Pacific region, through its threats to invade Taiwan, which enjoys democratic rule, according to Washington, in addition to the American emphasis on the need to protect the region surrounding China, given the threat posed by nuclear-armed North Korea in the face of its Japanese and South Korean neighbors and the security of the region.
The Aukus defense nuclear agreement represents a major leap for Australia, as this step for Australia, an ally of the United States, is a major development of its military capabilities. It became the second country after the United Kingdom to acquire Washington’s nuclear technology. The submarines are characterized by their ability to operate more and faster compared to the current fleet of diesel-powered submarines, and Australia will be able, for the first time, to launch long-range strikes against its enemies, according to the Australian perception. The Aukus agreement includes sending a group of Australian Navy personnel, starting from the current year 2023, to the American and British submarine bases for training on how to use the new nuclear submarines. This is a major step within the “Aukus” tripartite partnership agreement signed by the three countries, “USA, Britain and Australia” in 2021.
However, US President “Joe Biden” denied these Chinese and international accusations, stressing that the agreement aims to promote peace in the region from the American point of view, and that submarines will operate with nuclear energy and are not armed with nuclear weapons. During his meeting with UK and Australian ministers, “Rishi Sunak and Anthony Albanese” in San Diego, California, he said the agreement would not jeopardize Australia’s commitment to being a nuclear-weapon-free country.
The last analysis remains for analysts and foreign policy makers with regard to China and Russia after Washington concluded the Aukus nuclear defense agreement with Britain and Australia in the face of China and Russia mainly, that the United States of America, with its reckless behavior in the foreign arena, has brought the situation to the point that the world is about to enter into a global military and nuclear conflict between America itself on the one hand and China and Russia on the other hand through its alliances directed against them globally, such as the Aukus nuclear alliance with Britain and Australia and the Quadruple Alliance with Japan, South Korea, India and Australia.
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