While by no means the most sophisticated or nuanced summary, it is a good primer for those readers at the very start of their understanding.
For those readers who have moved beyond the basics and seek a deeper understanding I suggest you review and reflect on the Reuters picture of the ASEAN national leaders holding hands in the story header.
A whole universe of understanding opens up when considering the body language, alignment and personal distancing containined in that picture!
The post heading is the title of a recently released publication available here.
This is a high quality publication with input from some of the giants in the field of Southeast Asian studies. I highly recommend the work, but (gentle hint) it is written for serious scholars.
Image source: Pew Research Centre here
Again the data is getting a bit older than the ideal, but the great graphic from the Pew Research Centre here is very revealing.
Some of the sentiments expressed have very deep roots. Some of the strongest indicators of support can possibly be traced back over a century to Japan’s stunning challenge to Western colonial powers. This assertion of Japanese self-reliance and confidence was seen in the Russian/Japanese War, subsequently gained further credence in World War 2 and was, arguably, the ultimate inspiration for many acts of national independence through Southeast Asia last century.
Another point I would note is that countries that see themselves as inferior to another tend not to go to war against that state. In contrast, powers that see themselves as equals are often locked into, at best, an endless state of friction and at worst an inevitable conflict. The comparable degrees of disdain felt among Japan, China and South Korea for each other bode poorly.
An alternative interpretation of this point is that the countries in the region who see other Asian states so far above them are betraying an ingrained sense of inferiority at the “superior” state. If this is the case, South Korea really does have a lot of image promotion work to do.
The final pont I would make is that the data may suggest that the generation that survived World War 2 really has passed into history. Little in the data above suggests a lingering resentment for the barbarity of Japanese invaders during World War 2. The exception is perhaps in South Korea and Japan, where those wounds run particularly and grieviously deep in the national psyche.
I could say a lot more here, but alas time is always the enemy of us all.
Image source: The Economist here
One influential element in Southeast Asian history has been the impact of external great powers. Some of these powers have risen to prominence more recently, such as Japan and, even more recently, the United States, but others have had a significant impact over a much longer period.
Few of these external great powers have had a greater impact than China and India. These power centres haven’t always been recognisable in their current forms, but the underlying Sino-Indic tensions and influences have been present for centuries and have significantly shaped the contemporary political and cultural landscapes.
This is evidenced in a vast range of examples, spanning the Brahmanic traditions in Thai Royalist rituals, the syncretic form Islam in Indonesia with its Hindu-Buddhist traits and the Chinese mercantile philosophy embedded in Singapore’s deep state.
Looking at contemporary societies in Southeast Asia it is tempting to consider these Sino-Indic influences as being largely historical relics, slowly being erased by global forces including capitalist consumerism and radical Islam, but I think that view is only partially correct.
The graphic above is, and can only be, a hazy snapshot of a point in time. How, for example, is starting or stopping being Chinese or Indian defined? How accurate is the visual depiction here? Despite the difficulty of answering those questions I believe two broad assertions are valid.
One is that most of the great Indian diaspora is not seeing, and has not seen for some time, a future for themselves in Southeast Asia. Whether this is by choice or compulsion is a different question, but I see the region as now being much more inclined (demographically) to a Chinese orientation.
The other is that, notwithstanding the rubbery figures presented, the Chinese diaspora in Southeast Asia would itself be a sizable nation state. In other words, China has already established a presence in Southeast Asia that goes beyond seizing control over some small and other inconsequential rocks in the South China Sea.
What is much more ambiguous however is the extent to which this diaspora can, and desires to, access and exert political power in support of its Chinese origins and against the interests of its host state/s.
That test of loyalty is complex and from what I have read seems to throwing up some interesting answers, but must sadly be a topic for another day.
Image Source: University of Mississippi here
Not everyone shares my good fortune in having learnt from some of the world’s leading experts on Southeast Asia. The disclaimer of course is that doesn’t necessarily mean I learnt as much as I could have or should have, but that’s on me. I still know I was very lucky to get the chance.
What could I say to those who didn’t get the same chance but still want to learn more about the region? Well, one approach I would recommend for would be students is to make the most of what is online at no cost.
Specifically, there are many University courses, including from some leading Universities, that make their course outlines, weekly focus and readings publicly available. The latter is potentially extremely useful for those seeking high quality readings.
An example of online course information is available here, with a great collection of readings that I will look into in more detail later, and it was through searching for an example for this post that I stumbled on the fascinating timeline that became the feature image above.
That timeline is fascinating in showing, among a host of other details, the pervasive presence of the Lee Kuan Yew dynasty in Singapore and the regular turnover in the Filippino Presidency. And the blanks in Thailand? Perhaps that wasn’t quite the power vacuum it appears, but you may need to a bit more awareness of that country that only comes from high quality academic readings to understand what what I am hinting at.
Enjoy the reading.
That’s the question I am considering following the release of the latest Australian census information, including in the commentary here.
That commentary suggests that over 25% of Australians were born overseas, with over half that number born in Asia. If Australia’s populatiion is around 22 million, that infers that at least 2.75 million Australians are of Asian descent (being born in Asia), a number likely to swell considerably if it includes those Australians of Asian descent (born here).
A highly conservative estimate is therefore at least 3 million Australians being of Asian descent.
How does this compare with Southeast Asian populations, seen in the middle column below?
Clearly a total of around 3 million Asians puts Australia towards the bottom of the list in population numbers. Nevertheless, based on population numbers alone, the claim that Australia is increasingly part of Asia has increasing validity.
However…another way to consider this 3 million strong cohort is to reflect on their relative economic, social and political power in and on their “home” states.
I will reflect on this argument further and post again soon.
I have no idea how many readers follow the World Bank Global Economic Prospects available here.
Nevertheless, dropping down to the regional forecasts and selecting East Asia and Pacific I’ve recreated the data below.
That all seems business as usual, but when you look a bit deeper…
Oh, dear. I will say no more than that.
Thanks to the work of the good folk at TechInAsia, particularly Kathrinna Rakhmavika, the great graphic found here and reproduced above illustrates the cost of data across the region.
There is a lot in that data. Some points I’d make is that I was unaware some of these countries had a minimum wage, and certainly if they do the enforcement mechanisms by the state would be, at best, extremely inconsistent and insipid. In this context the minimum wage reference, unless it was a vague allusion to the market minimum wage, is somewhat meaningless.
Then there is the number of hours worked to achieve payment equivalent to 1gb of data at local prices. This is provided as the number of hours of work at the (somewhat meaningless) measure of the minimum wage, but alternatively providing this as the required number of hours at the mean national wage (the average wage) or the number of hours for the nation’s modal wage (the wage received by the highest number of workers) may give very different answers.
There is also the issue that covering only income received from wages excludes those who receive their income from capital (and retirees and children). The data also avoids the cost of entry to accessing that data, eg the price of hardware and initial access costs.
My point is that at first glance this is, or was, an interesting graphic, but on closer scrutiny the numbers presented begin to look very shaky indeed on the story they are telling.
Note: As a supplementary comment on this post, the price of an additional 1gb data on a phone plan in Australia is around $10. With the minimum wage in Australia set at around $16 that equates to around 40 minutes of work, but the cost of that additional 1gb excludes the upfront and the baseline monthly fees to use it. That sounds unambiguous enough, but there are also packages that a quickly Google search and selection at random (like the one here) that presents options costed at (per 1gb) $3, $0.5 and (effectively) <$0.01 respectively. Of course if you used so much data that the cost is down to a single cent per gb then you a/ probably don’t need to work to pay for it, or b/ can’t keep doing that as you cannot find time to go to work to pay for it, but that is a topic for a post on another blog.
There is an interesting post here comparing the online performance of what I believe are the top airlines in Southeast when it comes to social media. There are a range of measures, but just sticking to Twitter and Facebook measures here is how they ranked in 2013.
I regret the data is again somewhat dated, and it would be interesting to see if there have been any subsequent changes in the hierarchy. I’d appreciate any reader who can point me to updated figures.