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Welcome to BGA’s Asia Street blog, where you’ll find commentary and analysis from our people on the ground.

Out of the Shadows: Cybersecurity in Australia and the Indo-Pacific”

October 26, 2020

Last month, BGA Singapore Managing Director James Carouso – previously a senior advisor at the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command in Hawaii and deputy chief of mission and chargé d’ affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Australia – participated in an Australian Chamber event featuring a video conference with Minister for Defense Linda Reynolds. The event delved into the cyber challenge for Australia and how the government had in response tried to bring cyber agencies “out of the shadows” to raise public awareness about cyber security and the role of intelligence agencies.

“Defense Minister Reynolds did not mince words regarding the threat our governments and businesses faced from state-based cyber attacks,” Carouso wrote on Linkedin in response to a shared event summary. “She also said Australia is working with allies and partners to develop more secure supply chains for critical goods and tech.”

The effects of trends such as cybersecurity on aspects of interest to companies such as supply chains is a particular area of thought leadership at BGA, especially with the confluence of geopolitical developments including simmering U.S.-China tensions, innovative ideas such as the Supply Chain Resilience Initiative, and configurations like the Quad – grouping Australia, India, Japan and the United States.

As a case in point, in a recent op-ed published in the South China Morning Post, Carouso along with BGA New Zealand Managing Director Penny Tucker – one of the premier experts on international trade and economic issues – flagged supply chains as being among the areas where companies and governments have to adjust amid growing U.S.-China tensions. “Global commentators have written widely about how the post-Covid-19 world and the impetus to make supply chains more resilient will affect trade and investment considerations. It behooves the governments of Southeast and South Asian nations to negotiate their inclusion as trusted suppliers to their large trading partners,” Carouso and Tucker wrote.

In the op-ed, Carouso and Tucker also both note that Western countries can and should help other countries in managing such issues. As such, how Australia manages the cybersecurity challenges that Reynolds laid out as well as its wider domestic and foreign policy agenda more generally has implications not only for Canberra, but the wider Indo-Pacific region as well.

The Philippines’ Quest for South China Sea Justice in Perspective.

September 16, 2020

On September 16, BGA co-hosted a virtual event with the Stratbase Albert Del Rosario Institute (ADRi), an independent international and strategic research organization, on China’s role in Southeast Asia tied to the launch of a new book on the subject by Head of Research Murray Hiebert. The event, moderated by BGA Philippines Managing Director Dindo Manhit, featured remarks by BGA President and CEO Ernie Bower, keynote remarks by former Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, and insights from some leading Philippine thinkers: Justice Antonio Carpio, Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales, Renato de Castro and Richard Heydarian.

In his keynote address, Del Rosario, who was instrumental in the Philippines’ historic South China Sea arbitral tribunal case against China, framed the importance of Manila’s efforts in a wider regional and global perspective given Beijing’s recent maritime assertiveness, noting that the “quest for justice will shape our world and our country’s role in it.” He also added that it was important for the Philippines to reject the notion of “might makes right” not just for its own sake but for other middle and small powers in the world.

Both Bower and Manhit noted the strategic importance of Southeast Asia for its own sake as well as for both China and the United States, bringing with it their share of opportunities and challenges. Manhit also subsequently elaborated on his views in a column for the Philippine Daily Inquirer, where he noted that the chief challenge that China’s rise poses for the Philippines and Indo-Pacific states is that Beijing’s greater power has in turn resulted in growing ambitions and positioning itself as a global leader and a shaper of the international order, at times to the detriment of these countries’ interests. “[Its] rise is far from ‘peaceful,’ with its questionable economic initiatives and aggression in the West Philippine Sea,” Manhit wrote.

In his remarks, Hiebert, who has been on a virtual book tour across Indo-Pacific capitals, highlighted the Philippines as a particular case where while China’s quest for influence is far from new, Beijing is using “its full toolbox” across realms – political, economic, and societal – to increase its influence quickly. But he also added that the administration of Rodrigo Duterte had illustrated the limits of Beijing’s influence in the Philippines as well, since some of the deals initially reached had either not taken off due to legal obstacles or not really produced much value for Manila.

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