What developments, events or trends in Asia have interested you the most in 2019? And why?
In mid-2019, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) released a joint statement called the “ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific”. This is significant because the regional institutional architecture is ASEAN-led (and now ASEAN has endorsed the idea of the Indo-Pacific as an “integrated and interconnected region” instead of treating the Asia-Pacific and the Indian Ocean regions as “contiguous territorial spaces”.
Regions are the sites of regional order building, and therefore, the boundaries and membership of regions is a first-order issue in regional geopolitics.
How does this impact New Zealand – if in fact it does?
New Zealand’s thinking on the Indo-Pacific has evolved over the years. Since New Zealand’s approach to Asia emphasises ASEAN-centrality, Wellington has become far more comfortable with the idea of the Indo-Pacific now that the concept is being backed by ASEAN.
What will you be watching out for in 2020?
US Presidential elections, developments in the US-China rivalry (including the “trade war”), and how the Quad (an informal grouping of the US, Japan, Australia, and India) evolves.
Any books/movies/podcasts/etc on Asia that you would recommend to others?
I just bought a copy of Silk Roads: Peoples, Cultures, and Landscapes edited by Susan Whitfield. This is a magisterial history of the Silk Roads over the centuries that emphasizes economic and cultural interactions in Afro-Eurasia over the millennia (in both its continental and maritime dimensions).
Most importantly, the title itself makes it clear that we need to think of the “Silk Roads” in the plural as multiple interacting networks (as opposed to a single “road”).