This year’s seminar will focus on comparing French and Malaysian positions towards contemporary China.
Attendance upon invitation and registration only.
Jean-François Di Meglio (Asia Centre), Pr. Jean-Pierre Cabestan (HKBU / Asia Centre)
- Panel 1: China-Malaysia Relations & the South China Sea Issue
Since the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Malaysia in 1974, both countries’ economic ties have steadily developed. However, under the current Najib Razak government, relations have grown stronger and deeper. While China is Malaysia’s biggest trade partner, Malaysia has been China’s top ASEAN trading partner since 2008. The Bamboo network, among other projects, has played an important part in this evolution. Politically, while both countries have maritime and territorial overlapping claims (China’s claims overlap Malaysia’s EEZ and continental shelf), Malaysia has nonetheless called for self-restrain, as it has feared an escalation following the July 2016 Hague ruling. To the extent that the Prime Minister Najib Razak stated in March 2017 that Malaysia and China “have no overlapping claims”. China and Malaysia have agreed to cooperate on naval operations in the South China Sea, and they both benefit from a good relationship – and Malaysia’s “cuddly diplomacy” – the former wanting to protect its Sea Lines of Communication (SLOCs) for security and economic purposes; the latter seeking financial assistance, especially after having joined the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).
Commandant Jérôme Chardon (DGRIS), le Dr. Vivian Forbes (MIMA), Dr. Farish Ahmad-Noor (RSIS)
- Panel 2: The ASEAN between China & the US: Unity of the ASEAN, the US’ South East Asia Policy under Trump, Possible Areas of Cooperation between the ASEAN and Europe.
With the South China Sea maritime and territorial disputes in the backdrop, how does the ASEAN as a regional organisation deal with the US-China rivalry? Six years after President Obama initiated in 2011 a rebalancing strategy towards Asia aimed at countering China’s ambitions in the region, President Trump has decided to move in another direction: he pulled the US out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), creating doubts about America’s old-established commitment to the region’s economic development. As the ASEAN is celebrating its 50th anniversary, it has mainly relied on China for economic growth, and on the US for its security. The ASEAN has also encountered difficulty to take a united stance as a group on the South China Sea disputes, mainly because of this rivalry and China’s growing influence in the region. While Singapore has been moving closer to the US, China has been tempted to play the “Malaysian card”. This has been illustrated by Malaysia-China’s joint plan to build the Melaka Gateway at the expense of Singapore. As a result, the unity of the ASEAN as a group to negotiate with China has been questioned. In this context, what can ASEAN’s cooperation with other supra-national organisations such as the EU contribute? Can it help the ASEAN becoming more cohesive and united?
Elina Noor (ISIS), Marianne Péron-Doise (Irsem / Asia Centre)
- Panel 3: Terrorism in Southeast Asia: Malaysia’s Approach to Terrorism & Deradicalisation, and Cooperation with External Powers (US, China, France).
The Southeast Asian region has faced a series of terrorist attacks and attempts by home-grown terrorist fighters to travel to Syria or Iraq, most of them linked to ISIS. The latter has shown a growing interest in the region, as its propaganda videos and incentives to join its regional branch in the Philippines has demonstrated. To develop their network and increase their influence in Southeast Asia, ISIS militants have tried to rely on local conflicts, porous borders and existing smuggling networks, as well as racial and religious intolerance, as illustrated by their utilisation of the Rohingyas’ suffering. Notwithstanding the lack of a common ASEAN approach to prevent violent extremism, Malaysia has adopted a “rehabilitation” approach to deal with this issue, as stated by its Deputy Home Minister Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed. He has refuted critics of the “weakness” of this approach, underlining that Malaysia is the only ASEAN country in which travelling for the purpose of facilitating terrorist activities has been criminalised. In addition, the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) has been enforced since 2015, and is in line with the White Paper entitled “Towards Countering Threats Posed by the Islamic State Militant Group”. Is this approach efficient? How does it allow Malaysia to cooperate with other countries? Malaysia has agreed to further enhance cooperation against terrorism with both China and France. But what about Malaysia’s cooperation with the Trump Administration on this issue?
Pr. Jean-François Huchet (Inalco), Dr Farish Ahmad-Noor (RSIS) and Dr Mathieu Duchâtel (ECFR)