Changing Power Dynamics In South East Asia

Discuss about the Changing Power Dynamics In South East Asia.

South East Asia is experiencing increased changes in the power dynamics than ever before. Contrary to the past when the region showed strong affiliation to the United States, other countries with strong economies are interested in geopolitical and economic engagements with the bloc (Bower, et al. 2015). Singapore is one of the countries forming ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations). Other members include Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines, and Vietnam among others. The economies of the ASEAN members have grown over the years. Recent studies show the countries are among the fast growing economies that surpass growth of developed countries. ASEAN plays a significant role in supporting economies of major nations such as the U.S, China, and Japan (Lim, & Cooper, 2016). The potential for future growth attracts China and Japan among other regional economies. As a result, America’s long-term foreign policy experiences threats as each competitor strives to secure sustainable relations with the region (Limaye, 2016). ASEAN members have opportunities to exploit the interests of the major trading partners and realize increased developments for the citizens. However, governments require an appropriate foreign policy to control the power dynamics to favor the citizenry. Singapore experiences problems in its policy that has an influence on the short and long-term benefits. This memo discusses the problem of the Singapore’s policy regarding the changing power dynamics in the region.

Essence of Policy Problem for Singapore

Foreign policy is essential for Singapore to direct activities and interactions with other nations. Singapore cannot rely on herself to sustain the economy as well as achieve heightened development levels. The policy inspires the government officials and agencies in forming partnerships with foreign trading partners. Foreign policy is irreplaceable and creates the perception of Singapore in the eyes of the international community (Barr, 2016). It gives identity that influences how the interested partners can approach Singapore or conduct commercial activities with the citizens. Problems in the foreign policy are critical and require the government to redefine it to foster favorable relations with foreigners.

The power dynamics in the region have implications for the policy as changes in the political, social, and economic factors can render the principles less beneficial. Failure to act in time can lower growth that has adverse consequences on the population (Ting, 2010). Other countries in the region would overtake Singapore as the better investment hubs for foreigners. Additionally, the policy influences the relationship with other regional members. Although coming from the area, other states are in competition to attain increased performances. A policy that conflicts with others can potentially deteriorate the existing relationships and hinder integration that enables the bloc utilize their synergies and create increased value for the people. Singapore thus requires appropriate policy to facilitate and support desirable nature of international engagements to promote prosperity. Improvement is necessary to accommodate changes that are unavoidable in the contemporary domestic and global environment.

Importance of Policy

The foreign policy is important for Singapore in several ways. It influences the level of imports and exports that determine the economic grow and development. The policy enables the Singapore to enter into agreements with foreign countries to adopt practices that will widen overseas markets for Singapore products (OECD, 2010). Singapore is a small nation, and international trade plays a significant role in continued growth. Ability to market locally produced products enables the country to promote the attainment of a favorable balance of commerce as well as foreign exchanges to pay for imports.

The policy is useful in improving the bargaining power. A proper foreign policy gives much-needed support to push for more favorable terms of trade with partners (Desker, & Ang, 2015). Other states approach Singapore depending on the perceptions of the foreign policy. A positive attitude is of great value and compels the interested partners to prepare highly beneficial deals with Singaporean government or parties.

The policy determines the attractiveness of Singapore for foreign domestic investments. Investors from other countries look for opportunities to venture into overseas markets through the establishment of manufacturing firms and other units of operations (OECD, 2010). These investments in turn yield increased revenues for the country as well as creating jobs for the local population. A desirable policy attracts many investors who give Singapore preference compared to other regional members.

The foreign policy also influences the social-cultural climate of Singapore. Through the policy, the country communicates to the international world about the unique cultural attributes of the citizens. As a result, other people travel to Singapore to experience and learn about the ways of life of the locals. Foreigners visiting the country promote the tourism sector and grow awareness of experiences in Singapore that encourage more visitors.

The policy is important to determine the power of Singapore in influencing the geopolitical factors in the regions. Changing power dynamics provide opportunities for Singapore to position itself as a key party in activities such economic integrations, technological capabilities, and military forces (Singh, & Kesavan, 2010). These practices earn Singapore power observed through roles played in negotiations of ASEAN bloc with other nations.

Components of the Present Government Policy

The current foreign policy of the Singapore government is a reality monopolist that consists of elements of realism. According to Ting (2010. p13), other countries perceive Singapore from the perspective of a realist foreign policy. Singapore adopts the realism approaches in conducting international activities that are indispensable for Singapore’s prosperity. The policymakers apply the ideas of instability as Singapore is a small country and failure to focus on the foreign countries would have damaging consequences for the country. The domestic policy does not provide self-sufficiency, especially for small states. As Ting (2010) notes, only large countries with resources such as China, Russia, and the U.S would have economic success by applying strong domestic policy.

Singapore foreign policy also emphasizes on power. Singapore depends on power capabilities to influence activities in the region to yield benefits for the country. Ability to impact regional political and economic climate earns Singapore a favorable position to reap benefits of international ties between the area and the outside nations (OECD, 2010). Through the aspects of power, Singapore perceives relations with other governments in the region as based on competitiveness. As a result, other states give attention to their competition abilities and little considerations on the association needs. Consequently, Singapore acquires power that promotes the local economy.

Another component is the adoption of the English School approach into the policy. This strategy aims at producing qualified persons to work in the domestic and international markets (Quayle, 2013). Additionally, building on the quality of human resources would diversify the economy given that Singapore has limited resources.

Policy Effectiveness

An effective policy is desirable for any government to achieve developmental goals for the citizens. Singapore requires an efficient foreign policy to overcome salient handicaps that have a negative influence. The policy attains high effectiveness by driving the national agendas concerning the changing power dynamics (Ho, 2013). It emphasizes on the necessity of powerful influence on the economic and political factors that attract the interest of the foreign countries to the region. Emphasis on power places the government in a pivotal negotiation position for the success of the region and Singapore.

Additionally, the policy effectiveness gives primary attention to competitiveness among the ASEAN bloc that shifts the focus on the association of the countries. As a result, the neighboring states view the policy as inspiring growth rather than affiliation that introduce conflicts. Building Singapore’s competitive capabilities present an opportunity to survive regardless of the country’s background (Lim, & Lee, 2016). Other nations can identify the state as a favorable trading partner based on its edge-cutting capabilities compared to neighboring countries. The policy also promotes the quality of the human resources that foster Singapore’s attractiveness.

Focusing on a reality approach can help attain high effectiveness. The policymakers utilize attributes that enable the country to achieve set goals. Unrealistic ideas hinder the success of a nation as efforts and resource utilization do not deliver maximum value. Facing the real challenges enables the development of appropriate programs along with the establishment of suitable foreign agreements that ultimately yield high returns for the economy and population.

Reasons for Effectiveness/ Ineffectiveness

Different groups express varying opinions on the effectiveness of Singapore policy. Some reasons can explain the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of the foreign policy. Firstly, Singapore has attained a high economic position on the Asian continent (SMFA, 2016). Singapore is among the top economies in Asia with fast growth rates. These performances are associated with counties covering large land and resource endowment. Singapore lacks these attributes and has attained strong performances.

Secondly, Singapore has succeeded to play important role South East Asia geopolitics. Singapore has hosted international meeting over issues in the region (Desker, & Ang, 2015). As a member of the ASEAN bloc, Singapore has a voice on the negotiations achieved with the other countries.

Thirdly, Singapore has made advanced technologies supported by quality human resources. The population comprises of elites and experts capable of working in domestic and global technological activities. For instance, Singapore is an important partner with China in the technical sectors.

The ineffectiveness of the Singapore policy is primarily related to the persistent conflicts with the neighboring countries (Roth, 2015). Other South East Asia nations are interested in association attributes and disputes with Singapore’s policy. Consequently, there has been perennial conflict in regional relationships.

Despite conflicts shortcoming, my opinions support the policy as effective due to exemplary performances achieved over the years. The country has emerged as one of the top economies in Asia despite its small size and little resources endowment. It has surpassed some countries with a large population, land, and resources. Further, Singapore continues to attract strong economies such as the U.S, China, Japan, and other regional countries.   

Lessons from the Policy

The Singapore foreign policy offers many lessons that can apply in other countries to reinforce performances alongside controlling the power dynamics. Firstly, the policy adopted should take into consideration the domestic factors such as population size, land covered, and available natural resources (Pakpahan, 2016). Any government needs to adopt a foreign policy that fits in conditions of the country to enable the realization of high outcomes. Applying inappropriate policy would lead to weak performances and reduced influence on the power changes in the global environment and region.

Secondly, foreign policy is necessary to control external forces for the benefit of a country and the population. Countries cannot exist and sustain themselves, and require to trade and partner with other states to market their surplus besides obtaining products not available locally. An effective policy is important in international agreements to enable the country bargain, and reap favorable terms that help maintain a positive balance of payment.

Thirdly, the foreign policy should address how a country would manage its power to influence politics and economics of the neighbors. Neighboring countries affect the international activities (White, 2016). Therefore, a government needs to adopt policy elements that help manage power to foster favorable relations necessary for integration and earning reputation.

Evolution of the Problem in the Future

The policy problems for Singapore would evolve in the future due to the changes in regional power dynamics. Other nations such as Malaysia and Indonesia are stepping up their efforts to increase their authority in the region (Ho, 2013). This trend has implications for the current policy in Singapore. The conflicts between Singapore and the neighbors would increase tension and affect existing relations. Singapore reaps benefits from its significant influence on the regional matters. Unfavorable relations can adversely affect Singapore through reduced power. For instance, Malaysia is moving to raise impact on the geopolitics by adopting strategies that attract increased attention from the major global powers such as China and the U.S (Saravanamuttu, 2014). In addition, Malaysia plays an increasingly important part in trade partnerships of the regional bloc and the international world.

The power dynamics are shifting from economic integration to improve military prowess. Military force is an element of the hard foreign policy that helps improve the security associated with emerging threats such as terrorism (Mingjiang, & Kemburi, 2014). Singapore neighbors are advancing their military capabilities to attain a stable position and preparedness to combat war-related threats. Additionally, military force is as necessary to support strong economic growth (Ball, 2012). Attention to the South East Asia region exposes the countries to the international crime activities. The countries would need to enhance their forces to ensure resilience against organized attacks. Singapore mainly applies soft power and would require adopting aspects of hard power in the future to maintain policy effectiveness (Desker, & Ang, 2015). Careful utilization of these principles is necessary to avoid causing adversary perception of Singapore’s policy among the neighbors that would threaten relations and prosperity.

Steps for Government Preparedness

The government takes some steps to consolidate influence and control the changing power dynamics. The government engages major economic forces such as the U.S, China, and other regional countries through trade partnerships (Majid, n.d.). Singapore also supports the integrations of the regions and agreements achieved with foreigners (Lee, 2016). Moreover, the government is strengthening its military capabilities but limits the use of hard power policies against foreign and neighboring countries. Further, the government is diversifying the domestic market to promote the sociocultural climate that attracts visitors.

These steps promise positive outcomes for Singapore economy and population. They are reasonable strategies to cope with power changes and support economic growth. These plans are consistent with realism theory and would work out and generate desirable results (Majid, n.d.). For instance, the working with the major economies such as the U.S and China ensures the country does not lose potential partners to neighboring countries. In addition, limited use of hard powers prevents the negative perception of the Singapore foreign policy to the regional countries and the international world (Huat, n.d.). As a result, Singapore would uphold positive relationships that promote economic development and minimal conflicts. Participation in the regional integrated activities would enable Singapore reap increased economic gains.

Resource Utilization

Singapore does not have huge resource endowment and applies strategies that allow the creation of the highest value possible. The government allocates resources to increase production and yield improved exports for the international markets. Major sectors of the economy such as technological infrastructures and human resource development receive a significant proportion of resources (OECD, 2010). These segments in turn help increase domestic output. Exporting these products and services helps Singapore to correct balance of payment to counter high imports. Singapore’s small population encourages exports to dispose of surplus. Some resources help establish structures to enable shipment of products to the international markets.

The social sectors have not received vast resources in the past; however, there is improved allocation to promote the social welfare. Moreover, the social service industry is emerging as a significant contributor to the economy through activities such tourism and hospitality (Singh, & Kesavan, 2010). Singapore also uses resources to import raw materials that are utilized in the production of exports. The output bears high value and helps the country recover costs and earn revenues. The limited nature of resources compels Singapore to utilize the available resources in the most efficient way to realize maximum benefits. This practice has enabled the country to surpass productivity of many states with vast natural resources.

Reference List

Ball, D. 2012. Asia’s power dynamics: military change and its geopolitical effects. London, Routledge.

Barr, M. D. 2016. Singapore after Lee Kuan Yew | East Asia Forum. [Online] Available at: http://www.eastasiaforum.org/2016/01/03/singapore-after-lee-kuan-yew-2/. [Accessed 09 September 2016].

Bower, E. Z., Hibert, M., Nguyen, P., & Poling, G. B. 2015. Southeast Asia’s Geopolitical Centrality and the U.S.-Japan Alliance. Washington, DC, Center for Strategic & International Studies. [ONLINE] Available at: http://spfusa.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/150609_Bower_SoutheastAsiaCentrality_Web.pdf. [Accessed 09 September 2016].

Desker, B. & Ang, C. G. (eds.). 2015. Perspectives on the Security of Singapore: The First 50 Years. Singapore, World Scientific.

Ho, E. L.-E. (2013). Changing landscapes of Singapore: old tensions, new discoveries. Singapore, NUS Press.

Huat, L. L. n.d. Will Strengthening the SAF Mean Strengthening Singapore’s Deterrence as a Non-Nuclear State?  Journal of the Singapore Armed Forces, Vol. 41:4, pp. 21-32. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.mindef.gov.sg/safti/pointer/documents/pdf/V41N4_strengtheningthesaf.pdf [Accessed 09 September 2016].

Lee, P. 2016. Does TPP matter? Does Singapore matter? – Asia Times. [Online] Available at: http://atimes.com/2016/08/does-tpp-matter-does-singapore-matter/. [Accessed 09 September 2016].

Lim, D. J., & Cooper, Z. 2016. Are East Asian states really hedging between the US and China?  East Asia Forum. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.eastasiaforum.org/2016/01/30/are-east-asian-states-really-hedging-between-the-us-and-china/. [Accessed 09 September 2016].

Lim, J. & Lee, T. 2016. Singapore: Negotiating State and Society, 1965-2015. London, Routledge.

Limaye, L. 2016. Despite Chinese Shadows, Southeast Asian Friendship With US Worth Cultivating. [Online] Available at: http://yaleglobal.yale.edu/content/despite-chinese-shadows-southeast-asian-friendship-us-worth-cultivating. [Accessed 09 September 2016].

Majid, M. n.d. Southeast Asia between China and the United States. [Online] Available at: http://www.lse.ac.uk/IDEAS/publications/reports/pdf/SR015/SR015Majid-China-vs-US.pdf.  [Accessed 09 September 2016].

Mingjiang, L. & Kemburi, K. (eds.) 2014. Growth of China’s Power and Changing Security Dynamics in Asia. London, Routledge.

OECD. 2010. Singapore: Rapid Improvement Followed by Strong Performance. pp. 159-176. [Online] Available at: https://www.oecd.org/countries/singapore/46581101.pdf  [Accessed 09 September 2016].

Pakpahan, B. 2016. Geopolitics and geoeconomics in SE Asia: What is RI’s position? – The Jakarta Post. [Online] Available at:http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2012/07/05/geopolitics-and-geoeconomics-se-asia-what-ri-s-position.html. [Accessed 09 September 2016].

Quayle, L. (2013). Southeast Asia and the English school of international relations a region-theory dialogue. Hampshire, England, Palgrave Macmillan.

Roth, H. J. 2015. The Dynamics of Regional Cooperation in Southeast Asia – GCSP. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.gcsp.ch/News-Knowledge/Publications/The-Dynamics-of-Regional-Cooperation-in-Southeast-Asia. [Accessed 09 September 2016].

Saravanamuttu, J. 2014. Malaysia in the New Geopolitics of Southeast Asia. [Online] Available at: http://www.lse.ac.uk/IDEAS/publications/reports/pdf/SR015/SR015-SEAsia-Saravanamuttu-.pdf. [Accessed 9 September 2016].

Singh, D., & Kesavan, K. V. (2010). South and Southeast Asia: responding to changing geo-political and security challenges. Singapore, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies; New Delhi, KW Publishers.

SMFA. 2016. Straits Times: Geopolitical realities in East Asia. Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs. [Online] Available at: https://www.mfa.gov.sg/content/mfa/media_centre/singapore_headlines/2014/
201405/headlines_2014051602.html. [Accessed 09 September 2016].

Ting, M. H. 2010. Singapore’s foreign policy beyond realism. Doctorate Thesis, Centre for Asian Studies, University of Adelaide. [Online] Available at: https://digital.library.adelaide.edu.au/dspace/bitstream/2440/71973/8/02whole.pdf [Accessed 09 September 2016].

White, H. 2016. Can Asia break free of great-power dynamics? | East Asia Forum. [Online] Available at: http://www.eastasiaforum.org/2016/03/27/can-asia-break-free-of-great-power-dynamics/. [Accessed 09 September 2016].

 

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