ST holding forum on leadership change and what it means for Asia

Chinese dredging vessels are purportedly seen in the waters around Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea in this still image from video taken by a P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft provided by the United States Navy o
Chinese dredging vessels are purportedly seen in the waters around Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea in this still image from video taken by a P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft provided by the United States Navy on May 21, 2015.PHOTO: REUTERS

Change is in the air and how it blows in the coming months will set the course for Asia's leaders and policymakers for years to come.

By early next month, the United States will have elected its new president, and the choice of the Americans will be a pivotal moment for Asia after eight years of having Mr Barack Obama in the White House.

At a time when an assertive China's activities to bolster its South China Sea claims are causing worry, who becomes president is watched closely for what this will mean for US engagement with the region.

Nearer home in China, there will be a leadership transition next year, with most of the top leaders due to retire and President Xi Jinping to name his successor, ahead of 2022 when he is expected to step down.

To help make sense of these changes and the challenges they pose, The Straits Times has assembled some of the sharpest minds in the region, including Professor Wang Gungwu, chairman of the Iseas - Yusof Ishak Institute, East Asian Institute and the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy; Professor K. Mitra, director of the Institute of South Asian Studies; and Ms Selena Ling, head of treasury research and strategy at OCBC Bank.

They will be giving their take on these and other events, such as Britain's decision to leave the European Union, at The Straits Times Global Outlook Forum on Nov 29.

Titled 2017: New Leaders, New Challenges for Asia, the event will be held in partnership with the sponsor, OCBC Premier Banking.

"Our Global Outlook Forum has become a marker in the year, a time to pause and look back at events of the year and ahead to what's to come," said Mr Warren Fernandez, The Straits Times editor and editor-in-chief of Singapore Press Holdings' English/Malay/Tamil Media Group.

"2016 has been a year of many surprises, from Brexit, to Duterte and Trump emerging as major newsmakers, as well as a few far-flung rocks in Asian waters becoming points of heightened contention. How these play out will be significant, with a bearing on all our lives."

Leading off the forum will be Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, who will speak on how the leadership changes in the US and China will impact on Singapore and Asean in 2017 and, in particular, how the next US president will deal with the increasingly forceful, wealthy and nationalistic rising great power in Asia.

Prof Wang will look at the leadership change in China and what this augurs for the region.

While India is not going through a leadership change, it is an Asian power whose actions are felt beyond its borders. Prof Mitra will focus on some of challenges that the Narendra Modi government needs to address, not least the rising tensions over Kashmir and the danger posed by religious intolerance.

Ms Ling will be reading the tea leaves for Asia's economy in the light of the slowdown of the Chinese growth engine and likely policy changes that come with the new US administration.

The Straits Times' US bureau chief Jeremy Au Yong will give his take on what the results of the presidential election tell us about the mood of American voters and how that could influence Washington's foreign policy towards Asia.

To sign up for the forum, you can go to http://str.sg/globaloutlook. Registration fee is $230 and the deadline is Nov 16, but there is an early bird special of $180 if you register by Oct 17. There are further discounts for group purchases and OCBC card holders.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 08, 2016, with the headline 'ST holding forum on leadership change and what it means for Asia'. Print Edition | Subscribe