Can America Come Back? Prospects for U.S.–Southeast Asia Relations under the Biden Administration

Can America Come Back? Prospects for U.S.–Southeast Asia Relations under the Biden Administration

Roundtable with Ann Marie Murphy, See Seng Tan, Cheng-Chwee Kuik, Abdul Razak Ahmad, Huong Le Thu, Evan A. Laksmana, Renato Cruz De Castro, Thearith Leng, Vannarith Chheang, and Moe Thuzar
October 27, 2021

President Biden has announced that the United States “is back” as a global leader, but can the United States make an effective regional comeback in Southeast Asia? This roundtable examines Southeast Asian states’ perceptions of their relationships with the United States as the United States looks to regain a prominent regional role in this complex foreign policy environment.

America Is Back? Opportunities and Obstacles to Restoring U.S. Credibility in Southeast Asia
Ann Marie Murphy

(Still) Supporting the Indispensable Power: Singapore’s Relations with the United States from Trump to Biden
See Seng Tan

Malaysia’s Resilient (but Ambiguous) Partnership with the United States: The Dilemmas of Smaller States in the Indo-Pacific Era
Cheng-Chwee Kuik and Abdul Razak Ahmad

The Push and Pull of the Developing U.S.-Vietnam Defense Partnership
Huong Le Thu

A Fragile Fulcrum: Indonesia-U.S. Military Relations in the Age of Great-Power Competition
Evan A. Laksmana

The Philippines’ Hedging between the United States and China: Can the Biden Administration Tip the Balance?
Renato Cruz De Castro

Are Cambodia-U.S. Relations Mendable?
Thearith Leng and Vannarith Chheang

Burma/Myanmar and the United States: The Dilemma of a Delicate Balance
Moe Thuzar

NOTE: This roundtable is the result of the project “Southeast Asia Views America: Perceptions, Policies and Prospects,” organized and edited by Ann Marie Murphy and based on virtual workshops with the participating authors held this year. The project team is extremely grateful to the Center for Foreign Policy Studies at Seton Hall University, the Weatherhead East Asian Institute at Columbia University, and the New York Southeast Asia Network for financial and logistical support. Longer versions of these essays will be published as chapters in an edited volume, Southeast Asia Views America: Perceptions, Policies and Prospects, in 2022.

Ann Marie Murphy is Professor and Director of the Center for Foreign Policy Studies in the School of Diplomacy and International Relations at Seton Hall University (United States). She is also an Adjunct Senior Research Scholar at the Weatherhead East Asian Institute at Columbia University and a founding partner of the New York Southeast Asia Network

See Seng Tan is President and CEO of International Students Inc. (United States), a faith-based, nonprofit organization serving international students and scholars, and is concurrently a Research Advisor at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) and Senior Associate at the Centre for Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, both at Nanyang Technological University (Singapore).

Cheng-Chwee Kuik is an Associate Professor and the Head of the Centre for Asian Studies in the Institute of Malaysian and International Studies at the National University of Malaysia (Malaysia). He is concurrently a Nonresident Fellow at the Foreign Policy Institute of the Johns Hopkins University.

Abdul Razak Ahmad is the Founding Director of Bait Al-Amanah, a political think tank in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia). He is a member of the Board of Directors of the University of Nottingham in Malaysia.

Huong Le Thu is a Senior Analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute in the Defence and Strategy Program (Australia). She leads projects on Southeast Asia, including on regional alignment politics, Southeast Asian perceptions of great-power competition, defense diplomacy, regional dispute management, regionalism, and Australia’s engagement with the region.

Evan A. Laksmana is a Senior Research Fellow with the Centre on Asia and Globalisation at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore (Singapore).

Renato Cruz De Castro is a Distinguished Full Professor in the International Studies Department at De La Salle University in Manila (the Philippines), where he holds the Aurelio Calderon Chair on Philippine-American Relations.

Thearith Leng is a Visiting Fellow in the Department of Political and Social Change in the College of Asia and the Pacific at the Australian National University (Australia). He concurrently serves as Director of the Mekong Centre of Strategic Studies at the Asian Vision Institute based in Phnom Penh (Cambodia).

Vannarith Chheang is President of the Asian Vision Institute in Phnom Penh (Cambodia). He concurrently serves as a Visiting Fellow at the ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute (Singapore).

Moe Thuzar is a Fellow and Co-coordinator of the Myanmar Studies Programme at the ASEAN Studies Centre at the ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute (Singapore).

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