Not a Pawn: Southeast Asia in a World of Rising Great Power Tensions

As the war in Ukraine rages on, and a second U.S. administration pursues “strategic competition” with China, U.S. foreign policy appears to have found its new guiding mission: global confrontation between “democracies and autocracies.” Central to Washington’s plans for this competition are its efforts to build a coalition of friendly states to balance and even contain Russia and China. Southeast Asia is a dynamic region that boasts of high-growth economies, interstate peace, and a remarkably successful regional organization — ASEAN. But the region now finds itself unwittingly on the frontline of a grand strategic competition. While China’s rise in particular poses an acute concern to the region, many Southeast Asian nations also strongly oppose the growing U.S.-China security competition that will likely be highly destabilizing and damaging to them. Southeast Asian states also want to partner with both the United States and China to address complex global challenges such as climate change and pandemics. What lessons can Southeast Asia bring to Washington in these turbulent times? How can the United States better listen to the nuanced preferences of the region? What opportunities exist for America to work with ASEAN states to reduce tensions in Asia? To address these and other questions, the Quincy Institute will host a webinar featuring Kishore Mahbubani, former Singaporean diplomat and distinguished fellow at the Asia Research Institute; Dino Patti Djalal, former Indonesian ambassador to the United States and senior advisor to The Asia Group; and Elina Noor, director for political security affairs at the Asia Society Policy Institute. The conversation will be moderated by QI Director of Studies Sarang Shidore.


Kishore Mahbubani

Kishore Mahbubani is a Distinguished Fellow at the Asia Research Institute at the National University of Singapore (NUS). Mahbubani worked in the Singapore Foreign Service for 33 years (1971 to 2004). He had postings in Cambodia, Malaysia, Washington DC and New York, where he twice was Singapore’s Ambassador to the UN and served as President of the UN Security Council in January 2001 and May 2002. He was Permanent Secretary at the Foreign Ministry from 1993 to 1998. Mahbubani joined academia in 2004, when he was appointed the Founding Dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at NUS. He was Dean from 2004 to 2017, and a Professor in the Practice of Public Policy from 2006 to 2019. In April 2019, he was elected as an honorary international member to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was also selected as one of Foreign Policy's Top Global Thinkers in 2010 and 2011. He has published seven books: Can Asians Think?, Beyond The Age Of Innocence, The New Asian Hemisphere, The Great Convergence, Can Singapore Survive, The ASEAN Miracle (co-authored with Jeffery Sng) and Has the West Lost It?.

Dino Patti Djalal

Ambassador Dino Patti Djalal is a Senior Advisor to The Asia Group, based in Indonesia. During his long and distinguished diplomatic career, Ambassador Djalal served as the Indonesian Ambassador to the United States, Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs, and advisor to the President. He is also a one-time presidential candidate and an important figure in Indonesian civic and business life. With decades of experience at senior levels of Indonesian government and business, Ambassador Djalal provides strategic counsel for companies trying to navigate the complexities and opportunities of a rapidly changing Indonesia. From 2010 to 2013, Ambassador Djalal served as Indonesia’s Ambassador to the United States, during which time trade, bilateral investment, and defense cooperation between the two countries saw tremendous growth. Ambassador Djalal also played a key role in elevating the U.S.-Indonesia bilateral relationship to a Comprehensive Partnership before returning to Jakarta to serve as Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Elina Noor

Elina Noor is Director, Political-Security Affairs and Deputy Director, Washington, D.C. Office at the Asia Society Policy Institute. A native of Malaysia, Elina’s work focuses on security developments in Southeast Asia, global governance and technology, and preventing/countering violent extremism. Previously, Elina was Associate Professor at the Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies. Prior to that, she was Director, Foreign Policy and Security Studies at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies Malaysia. She was also formerly with the Brookings Institution’s Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World. Between 2017 and 2019, Elina was a member of the Global Commission on the Stability of Cyberspace. She currently serves on the ICRC’s Global Advisory Board on digital threats during conflict.

Sarang Shidore (Moderator)

Sarang Shidore is Director of Studies at the Quincy Institute. His areas of research and analysis are geopolitical risk, grand strategy, and energy/climate security, with a special emphasis on Asia. Sarang has collaborated and published with multiple organizations including Brookings Institution, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Council on Foreign Relations, Council on Strategic Risks, Oxford Analytica, Paulson Institute, Stimson Center, Stratfor, UK Ministry of Defense, and Woodwell Climate Research Center. He has more than 70 publications to his credit in journals, edited volumes, and media outlets in his areas of expertise.