I became interested in South East Asia in recent years, and I traveled through the region during the summer of 2017. I live in the Bay Area of California,  which is increasingly influenced not only by China, but also by Vietnam, the Philippines, and Thailand. America’s identity is deeply intertwined with Asia: The American defeat in the Vietnam war 1 changed America’s political consciousness, and from then on, the US was perceived as the “bad” superpower by many people in the rest of the world.

South‐East Asia is largely the product of external cultural influences. It was formed in the intersection of Indian and Chinese cultures and it became the easternmost extension of the spread of Islam. Beginning with the 15th century, the Europeans arrived and colonized the region. During the 20th century, the rise of the Japanese Empire ended European domination, and in the aftermath of World War II, the countries of the region gained independence. Their confidence and economic strength are growing: the last 50 years saw an unprecedented economic expansion. ASEAN was created with the intention to build a single market. The region now has 650 million people and solid economic growth above 5%.

Since the Vietnam war ended, America has attempted to redefine its role in the Pacific. The rise of China has the potential to end American hegemony in the region. Obama tried to shift American foreign policy away from Europe and the Middle East, and towards Asia. He knows the region well because he grew up in Hawaii and spent 5 years of his childhood in Indonesia. For most of his presidency, he worked on a massive trade agreement (Trans-Pacific Partnership, TPP) that would have created a huge common market comprising 40% of the total world economic output. 2 If China is the emerging counterweight to the American superpower, the countries of South East Asia are natural allies for the US.

The region is very diverse in terms of culture and religion. The interactions between different religions are not always peaceful, as the recent example of ethnic cleansing in Burma demonstrates: During the summer of 2017, more than 500,000 Rohingya were forcefully expelled from their villages and fled to Bangladesh. The reason is clear: they are a Muslim group in a Buddhist country, and the Burmese government wants to avoid Islamic insurgencies 3 Thailand has a massive political problem for the last 40 years with its 3 southernmost provinces, who are predominantly Muslim.

Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world, with approximately 225 million Muslims (87% of the population.). Bangladesh has a Muslim population of approximately 147 million. Thailand, Cambodia, and Burma are Buddhist, and the Philippines are Catholic (74 million, or 80% of the population.) Communist countries like Vietnam or China are secular. Learning how to live together peacefully is a challenging task, and the political classes are afraid that Islam could become more and more politized, as it happened in Europe and the Middle East. Strangely enough, Buddhism also seems to blend well with nationalism, as in Thailand .or Burma.

The region has undergone much political upheaval during the last century. Colonialism was replaced by communism, military dictatorships were superseded by democracies, and Thailand still has a monarchy that seems to be widely accepted by the population. How do the various countries of South East Asia  integrate their histories, and what is the outlook for them? Will they unite and become a major player on the global political stage?

Here are some photos from my trip:

Notes:

  1. The New York Times: How Vietnam killed the Great Society
  2. It would have included the US, all South East Asian States, Japan, Mexico, Peru, Chile, and Canada, and thus also superseded the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA.) The creation of this market was also meant to build an economic and political counterweight to China’s growing dominance. But the political winds in America shifted, and the TPP is currently not supported by the American government. It remains to be seen if there will be some kind of follow-up agreement, or if America will simply remain inactive and allow the Chinese to continue to expand economically through Asia.
  3. See: Washington Post: The ‘ethnic cleansing’ of the Rohingya, Sept 18, 2017.

Join the conversation! 1 Comment

  1. The reading of your trip was certainly fun, in the first level of perception. Politicized, there is no mention of an OPPORTUNITY INDEX for the people of those areas, and each of the buzzwords would have an accompanying list of entries which would offer the “pie of phenomenological distribution” in order for the reader to be able to apply CONNECTION THEORY to the entries, and also MODEL CORRESPONDENCE with the goal of being able to say Bingo! on the simplification of local individual problems, or their downright solution with INNOVATION and INVENTION. So, the person returns to south east Asia, this time armed with the re introduction of the power of the word:

    Yes, we can sum historical and political mesoscopic phenomena in the traditions of the best reporting from century 20, but we now possess the quantum microscopy of cooperative vision to say: how do we create a situation from birth, which separated from any type of politics, can grow to maximum flower within the tolerance of the architecture of the brain-mind system?

    Which is: how do we give every opportunity, benefit, and service in order to create those first five principal environments (family, neighborhood, money, schools, friends) for the rising individual, the child. Is there no appreciation for history?

    So, our new traveler notes what would be in an OPPORTUNITY INDEX, with an implicit jewel: once each individual reaches towards their individual sun, in the positive ways as programmed by their new MAXIMIZED 5 INTELLIGENT ENVIRONMENTS, then the cooperative efforts would be more common and simple.

    Please note the report speaks of communist countries, and anybody who has lived there know they are not: they are ruthless dictatorships, barbaric in origin, vestigial traits of the last 12,000 years.

    Access to all world markets including local
    Access to education including eclectic, creative, business early
    Abilities exposure to
    Safe home
    Clean water, food, roads, safety from crime
    Community Action groups help with money problems
    The early schools show eclectic and how to make money, health
    Cooperatives, list of
    Ability to decide what you like to do, and on the other hand, how to make the money
    Money: what our parents never told us: we are born into a world of profiteers for righteous goods and services
    Access to world travel
    The 16 Freedoms, simple to attain, they should always be there
    Green machines in every major corner, buses, and trains showing how to make money and how to deal with others, as a sum of the thinkers and creative problem solvers in all 240 countries including theirs
    Access to information, TV news from the world, periodicals
    Public Library system
    Information Exchanges: Department of Good Ideas nexus
    Portable markets where people meet international people for projects. solar powered
    TV Instant Travel: access to any country any time by television, driving around
    Health Care
    Positive Mental Energy Visualization index for the country
    Idea Forums: half the things don’t need money, the other half need much less, but all need heart and good will
    Turning on Super Creativity in those areas; what are their efforts?
    Complete World Picture View: of the Opportunity Indices for the 240 countries
    Personality breakdowns: energy level, degree of openness or shyness
    Evaluation of the mental health of the people in percentages of millions, the ill
    Easy explanation availability of how to do business, how to get the emotion for (all the ways), how to get hands on supports: the community action groups, the foundations, the Book of Causes and their Agencies availability for the people
    Inventor and writer cooperatives

    Our traveler has an idea: the next time I travel, sure I take pictures they are always nice, but if I am able, I put a camera in the center of the front window behind it, I drive around the different neighborhoods for 10 minutes and show people EXACTLY what it is like to be there! This is what I do and am doing more. When they want to get off, I have a distance walker put their face on their cap display, go in, and do whatever business they want in the building they saw from the car. In 4D (the new method of background remaining as sharp as foreground) it is superb. Of course, to enjoy getting off the car (the world is free) you need be in the Travel Club, only $4.99 a month

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