On account of its territory, population and economic weight, Southeast Asia is becoming an increasingly important player throughout the world. With a total area of more than 4.5 million square kilometres and a population of more than 653 million, it constitutes a dominant part of the Asian continent. The complexity and heterogeneity of the region is reflected in the fact that the term “Southeast Asia” itself became widely accepted only after World War II. Despite the clarification of the concept, some open questions have of course remained, as the Philippines’ belonging to the region was debated for a long time, and it was not until the 1970s that the island nation was accepted by scholars as belonging to Southeast Asia. Politically, the region comprises the 10 ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) member states (Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Brunei, the Philippines) and East Timor, which became an independent country in 2002. ASEAN was established in 1967 as a regional integration organisation with the primary goals of boosting economic development and guaranteeing peace and security. The association’s effectiveness is unquestionable, and over the years it has served as a model for many regional institutions in East and South Asia, while remaining an important player in the international context as well. ASEAN has been the third fastest expanding economy in the world over the past decade, in which the “Tiger Cub economies” (Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam) have played a prominent role. Indonesia, the largest economy in the region, currently has the 7th highest GDP in the world on a purchasing power parity basis, while Singapore is one of the world’s most developed countries and a financial and commercial hub, which according to certain prognoses may become the world’s richest country per capita by the middle of the century. Thailand, the second largest economy in Southeast Asia, attributes its growth primarily to manufacturing, tourism and agriculture, similar to Vietnam, which is currently the 23rd largest economy in the world. Much like the Philippines, Asia’s 8th most populous country, and Malaysia, which shows average annual GDP growth of around 6-7%, and also plays a central role in education and business.
The majority of Southeast Asian countries are newly industrialised states; however, their importance in the global economy is steadily increasing. The importance of Southeast Asia in the global economy is clearly demonstrated by the region’s status as a global manufacturing centre. In addition to investment projects, intense innovation is another crucial component of economic growth. Productivity can be facilitated substantially through the spread of mobile internet, “big data”, the “Internet of Things”, automation and cloud-based technologies. The role of Southeast Asia in Eurasian integration is not negligible either. Although there is a serious geopolitical struggle going on in the region due to the rivalry between China and the US, the ASEAN states have, from the beginning, focused on the possibility of mediation between the two, and the benefits of mutual cooperation, which has also highlighted ASEAN’s central role. In terms of economy, China’s influence is dominant, and as part of this, Southeast Asian countries are keen to participate in China’s Belt and Road Initiative. At the same time, the countries concerned are also willing to cooperate with Russia, and although they need the presence of the United States for security reasons, their actions are motivated not by the expectations of the West, but by their own interests. Recently, India and Japan have also strengthened their presence in the region, which further facilitates the economic integration of South, Southeast and East Asia. This thematic issue of the Eurasia Review focuses on Southeast Asia, and the papers can be divided into two groups.
We hope that this issue of our review will contribute to the dissemination of knowledge on Southeast Asia, promote scientific discourse and provide a sound basis for political and economic decisions. Without an understanding of Southeast Asia, the concept of Eurasia cannot be fully understood.
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