IDSS and the Institute for Defence International Relations (IDIR), Ministry of National Defence of Vietnam, co-hosted a virtual roundtable on 7 December 2021 titled “Security Dynamics at Asia-Pacific: New Developments and Anticipations”
Participants agreed that competition among powers, especially between the United States and China, is a major trend in many fields today and its impacts are felt globally. The United States and China continue to engage with each other, particularly in “low-hanging fruit” issues like climate change, and the chances of direct military conflict remain low. However, the opportunities and areas for tangible cooperation are increasingly limited. Nonetheless, with both the United States and China competing for influence in Southeast Asia, there will be an incentive for each to keep its behaviour in the region in check. The ways forward would be for the United States and China to establish measures to prevent accidental conflict, and for ASEAN to develop proactive policies to ensure its centrality in tackling regional challenges.
On the maritime front, participants expected the East Sea/South China Sea region to be stable in 2022 although there may be undercurrents of tension. They were gratified that interactions between US and Chinese military personnel on the ground remain professional, which augurs well for safety concerns.
Participants noted that domestic economic recovery is on top of the priority lists of ASEAN countries in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Nonetheless, they felt that ASEAN member states should invest more efforts towards the early conclusion of a for the South China Sea.